Teachers stars Nick Nolte as a burned-out teacher who’s drawn back to his ideals. Social drama and irreverent, often broad comedy underscore this story of a zoo-like urban high school that’s run like an asylum. Pic makes stinging , important points about the mess of secondary public education, but those points are diluted gradually by an overload of comic absurdity.
Catalyst to dark comedy is a lawsuit brought against the school district for awarding a diploma to a student who can’t read or write. JoBeth Williams plays the attorney serving notice on the school.
Filmmakers engaged a large cast of well-known performers: Lee Grant as calculating, ruthless school superintendent; Allen Garfield as a teacher afraid of his student but who turns heroic; Royal Dano as a glum disciplinarian; and, in the central student role, Ralph Macchio as a street-smart but illiterate kid who triggers Nolte’s reemergence.
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Nolte nicely captures the image of a rather shaggy 10-year veteran of the classroom, and Williams is okay as his zealous nemesis.
Script was written by 27-year-old debuting screenwriter W.R. McKinney from a story conceived by producer Aaron Russo and his brother and exec producer Irwin Russo. Latter capitalized on his 10 years’ experience as a teacher in New York.