Teachers (1984)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Satire, Slice of Life  |   Run Time - 106 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Arthur Hiller's Teachers contains -- or more appropriately, fails to keep contained -- every single issue that could conceivably face the contemporary high school. In turn it serves as a preview of the feverish sensationalism otherwise known as Boston Public, David E. Kelley's overly topical TV drama that would arrive 15 years later. But, earnest moments aside, Teachers is more clearly a satire. One teacher makes his students face the opposite direction and quietly work while he reads the paper; a second attacks her colleague with the squirted blue ink from a mimeograph machine; a third carries a gun in her briefcase. And did we mention there's an escaped mental patient working as a substitute? Teachers stays on top of this messy abundance of subplots by way of its good humor, plus an all-star cast fronted by Nick Nolte and JoBeth Williams. Solid professionals like Judd Hirsch, Morgan Freeman and Richard Mulligan also keep it from going off the rails as issue after issue collide. At the same time, Teachers can't be taken seriously enough to work as a real inspirational film, which it also wants to be. Nolte's best efforts aside, Teachers is working too hard at grappling with its spectrum of hot-button educational issues, featuring all the character archetypes required to dramatize them, to seem like much more than a highlight reel of disastrous incidents. The standard components are shoe-horned in with a basic competency that sometimes approaches real likeability. But Teachers' enduring role is more academic; it's as a first-rate example of a certain catch-all philosophy popular in 1980s filmmaking.