STAND AND DELIVER, 1988
Starring: Edward James Olmos, Lou Diamond Phillips, Estelle Harris and Mark Phelan
The true story of high school math teacher Jaime Escalante turning a class of Hispanic teenagers from potential drop-outs into the country's top calculus students.
Before “Sister Act 2”, before “Dangerous Minds”, before any of a plethora of movies about teachers or coaches that turn a rag-tag bunch of misfits that nobody cares about into the shining stars of their true potentials... there was “Stand and Deliver”.
Jamie Escalante is hired by Garfield High School in Los Angeles to be their new computer teacher. There's just one problem: the school doesn't have any computers! The school ends up making him a math teacher for a class of would-be dropouts.
On his first day, Mr. Escalante gets no respect from the students. Over the coming weeks, he wins them over little by little by utilizing unique teaching methods, hurling back witty insults at them, and showing that he won't take their crap and believes in them when they don't believe in themselves.
At the board meetings, Escalante fights for his students, informing the other teachers that the kids can do much more than they're given credit for. That they aren't stupid or not worth the effort. He insists that the kids have great potential if they're challenged to be great. One teacher in particular refuses to listen, but Escalante is given a chance to prove his claims when he's allowed to teach AP Calculus the following school year after having his students go through summer school to learn trigonometry and applied math.
The students themselves are reluctant to take calculus (after years of being told they're too stupid for college level work, they now believe it themselves), but in the end decide that if their teacher thinks they can, then maybe they can!
Mr. Escalante puts the kids through the ringer, pushing them to their absolute limits both mentally and physically (and in a few instances even emotionally). It all comes down to if they can pass the AP Calculus test and get college credit as their start toward higher education and the lives he knows they can achieve.
All 18 students take the AP Calculus test. All 18 students pass!
In most cases, this would be the victorious end to the movie. But this movie is based on real life events, and in real life this was not where the story ended. The board that administers the AP exam comes back at the school claiming they believe the students cheated!
Drama ensues as the kids and their teacher butt heads with two investigators the AP board sends out to the school to look into the allegations of cheating.
“Stand and Deliver” is a classic. Plain and simple. It might not be the BEST movie in the genre of teachers/coaches molding their misfit students/players into winners, but it's the one that started it all and turned the story into its own sub-genre!
The acting is average at best, but that's all that can be expected when most of the cast were acting for the first time in this film. But the lack of professionalism among the characters actually helped the movie to be more believable. More real. Their reactions were more natural because of their lack of experience rather than in spite of.
The story is inspirational, of course! And it not only makes the mold for all similar movies to follow, but it actually breaks the mold. The movie seems like it is finished and ready to end at the point when we discover that all the students passed their AP exam and they give Mr. Escalante a plaque as a tangible form of their gratitude. But then when it continues, it leave us (the audience) wondering “what could possibly happen next to make this movie another 35 minutes longer?” They then hit us with the cheating scandal! Brilliant.
The pacing of the film is a little on the slow side. There's several scenes that could have easily been cut without altering the movie (such as the romance that forms between two of the students).
The film could have also used a stronger soundtrack to really bring home some of the scenes to either make weak scenes stronger, or powerful scenes mind-blowing!
“Stand and Deliver” is a must see for anyone that wants to watch a movie that will inspire them to strive to be more than they are, and more than they think they can be. It shows us that we never know what we're truly capable of until we're put to the test (which in the case of this movie is a literal test).
I give “Stand and Deliver” a 3.5 out of 5.
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