"Education Under Fire"
What You Need To Know:
In LIGHT IT UP, a group of six inner city high school students take a stand and protest the dismissal of a respected teacher. The teenagers take a police officer hostage after he is accidentally shot in the leg, demanding improvements in their school and the right to be heard. Two other students unintentionally wind up involved in the situation. Together, the group keeps the officer hostage, bargaining with a police detective. The standoff proves to be effective, especially with the media and other supportive students.
Unlike DEAD POETS SOCIETY, in which students are encouraged by and take action for their teacher, LIGHT IT UP focuses more on the results of a favorite teacher’s dismissal, igniting an unlikely, unmediated situation. It is this situation that makes the redeeming factors of the film appear weak. The movie touches on but does not deal directly with many social issues, including teenage pregnancy, police brutality, child abuse, crime, and education woes including financial, scholastic and behavioral ones. It contains a romantic, politically correct idealization of school improvement, with many obscenities and some violence. The movie ultimately provides a tragic lesson for the students, though some reform occurs
(RoRo, H, PCPC, FR, LLL, VV, D, M) Mostly romantic worldview with humanistic, politically correct elements encompassing a justifying attitude & defiance against authority to obtain politically correct, romantic ideals; 73 obscenities & 9 profanities; teacher hits robber over head, several scenes of police officer & youths in struggles, officer accidentally shot in leg, youth aggravates wound on officer’s leg, officer hits youth in mouth causing him to cough up blood, depiction of man being beaten, implied shooting by officers, implied abusive father, & youth is shot by police; no sex or nudity but some lewd sexual references & youth finds out she is pregnant, implying fornication; smoking; and, revenge & student bows to Allah in prison.
In LIGHT IT UP, a group of six inner city high school students take a stand, protest the dismissal of a respected teacher and end up in a standoff with the police. After a struggle with a police officer, the children take him hostage, demanding improvements in their school and the right to be heard.
R&B idol Usher Raymond stars as Lester, the high school’s star basketball player with good grades who has recently lost his father due to a mistaken shooting by police. At school, he gets into a dispute with Officer Jackson, played by Forest Whitaker of JASON’S LYRIC and BIRD, because the officer tells his best friend, “Ziggy” (Robert Richard), not to sit in the hallway. Ziggy tells Lester, “Everything is cool,” but Lester backs off only after he has had his say.
After the incident, the two head off to class, where their respectable teacher, Mr. Knowles (Judd Nelson of FROM THE HIP and TV’s SUDDENLY SUSAN), is trying to conduct class under poor conditions. The room is cold, and there aren’t enough textbooks for all the students, so when a window in the room breaks because of the wind, Knowles decides to move his class to another place. When they find the cafeteria and gym full of classes in the same predicament, and when they discover that the principal won’t deal with the problem, the teacher takes them to a café off campus. As he is conducting class, an armed robber comes in demanding money. Mr. Knowles, recognizing the student, distracts him long enough to hit him over the head and disarm him.
Upon hearing about the incident, the principal dismisses Mr. Knowles from the school. The students begin to protest, citing that Knowles is one of the few teachers who shows any concern for them. The teenagers begin to question the principal, who refuses to listen and begins handing out expulsions. When he informs the students involved that he will inform their parents, Ziggy runs off knowing that his abusive father will be a worse consequence. The principal sends Officer Jackson after him, and the two get into a struggle. Lester intervenes, knowing Ziggy’s fears, and tries to defend him. Amidst the chaos, the officer gets shot in the leg. At that point, Lester presumes that the only way to explain the situation is by telling Ziggy, his friend Stephanie and Rivers, who witnessed the incident, to stay in order to explain what happened. Seeing that the consequences are starting to pile up, Lester then decides to take Officer Jackson hostage, so that he might have the chance to be heard.
Two other students unintentionally wind up involved in the situation, and together the group keeps the officer hostage, bargaining with detective Audrey McDonald (Vanessa Williams of ERASER), demanding repairs for the school and improvements in education. The standoff proves to be effective, especially with the media and other supportive students. Ultimately, however, the students learn a tragic lesson, though some good reform occurs.
Unlike DEAD POETS SOCIETY, in which students are encouraged by and take action for their teacher, LIGHT IT UP focuses more on the results of the incident – the dismissal of a favorite teacher – igniting an unlikely, unmediated situation. It is this situation of unwarranted actions that makes the redeeming factors of this film weak. The goals are politically correct, although realistic. Furthermore, the circumstances and actions undertaken to achieve them don’t match up well. The movie touches on many social issues, including teenage pregnancy, police brutality, child abuse, crime, and education woes such as financial, scholastic and behavioral troubles. Performances by the up-and-coming stars are promising, though marred by the excessive use of obscenities to portray emotion. Such foul language, regrettably, however, has become too much a part of our public and private schools in real life.