Plot: What’s it about?
Rick Latimer (James Belushi) is a hot tempered teacher and thanks to his behavior, he finds himself promoted to a principal position. But this is not all good news, as the school he is sent to is Brandel High and its reputation is not good. The hallways are littered with drugs, teen criminals, and all sorts of other nefarious elements, not the kind of place you want to begin your career as a principal, to say the least. Then again, Latimer was moved to Brandel High as a sort of punishment for his outbursts, including taking a baseball bat to his ex-wife’s new lover. After he arrives and sees just how out of control his school has become, he works with the school’s head of security Jake Phillips (Louis Gossett, Jr.) to attempt to take back the hallways for the good students. But when his own temper and a band of teen thugs stand in his way, Latimer will have to overcome all the odds to make Brandel High safe & productive again. But if he can pull it off, the students will be able to learn in a safe environment, his job status will become positive again, and he just might come out of it all as a much better person.
I know most of them are overly predictable retreads, but I have a soft spot for movies like The Principal, where an educator faces a tough, urban classroom. This one takes a harder approach than some, with more in common with Lean on Me than Dangerous Minds, but it has some heart, thanks mostly to star James Belushi (Joe Somebody, Mr. Destiny). Belushi turns in a solid leading performance, with supporting work from Louis Gossett, Jr. (Iron Eagle, Diggstown) and Rae Dawn Chong (Commando, Crying Freeman). While it isn’t a masterpiece or even a great movie, The Principal has some good moments and provides solid entertainment, if you’re a fan of this kind of cinema. The story is good and with a flawed, but genuine leading character, this movie is able to overcome most of its problems and deliver as promised. As has happened often of late, Columbia has chosen not to issue a proper widescreen edition, which leaves us with a hacked full frame video transfer as our sole choice. So while this movie is a solid genre effort, Columbia’s lackluster treatment leaves it impossible for me to recommend this disc.
Video: How does it look?
The Principal is presented in a full frame transfer, which makes no sense whatsoever. The film’s intended aspect ratio is 1.85:1, which means compositions have been thrown off and fans have been left out in the cold. Even beyond that however, Columbia has done little to polish up this movie for DVD, as we’re shown a worn, sometimes faded version of the picture. The print has frequent nicks & specks, while softness creeps in often and lessens the visual impact, which is a real shame. I found colors and contrast to be solid enough, but the lack of a clean, widescreen option makes this a total disappointment, if you ask me.
Audio: How does it sound?
An acceptable, but not too memorable 2.0 surround option is used here. The material relies on mostly dialogue, but does have some more action oriented sequences, though this mix fails to let the audio enhance them much. In fact, I didn’t notice much surround presence at all outside of the musical soundtrack, which is well presented. The dialogue is clean and never presents a problem however, which is always good news. This disc also includes a French language option, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer.