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Cooley High

Glynn Turman , Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs , Michael Schultz    PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)   DVD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
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Cooley High has frequently been compared to American Graffiti, and for good reason. Like that classic, Cooley High has a loose, multicharacter structure, autobiographical origins, and the rich texture of its time. Set in Chicago in 1964, the movie follows aspiring writer Preach (Glynn Turman) and local basketball star Cochise (Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs, who went on to star in Welcome Back, Kotter) as they wander their neighborhood, drifting in and out of their classes at Cooley Vocational High School. The two friends pull pranks, crash parties, commit petty crimes, and generally try to enjoy their lives in an impoverished urban environment. Preach falls in love with a smart girl named Brenda (Cynthia Davis), whom he wins over by reciting poetry--leading to one of the silliest and sweetest love scenes you'll ever see. When Preach and Cochise go on a joy ride with a pair of young hoods, they end up arrested. Their history teacher, Mr. Mason (a superb Garrett Morris), gets them off, but the hoods think the boys sold them out and come seeking revenge. Cooley High depicts the rough life of African Americans in the 1960s with honesty and humor, offering no easy solutions or pat lessons. It's a roughly made movie, but Turman and Jacobs are both excellent, and there's an attention to reality that makes it engaging, refreshing, and ultimately moving. The soundtrack is a great compilation of 1960s soul, including the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops, and Smokey Robinson. An unjustly neglected film that deserves rediscovery. --Bret Fetzer

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! July 10 2004
By A Customer
A sad ending for a great film. This was not some cheap, run of the mill Black 70's movie. It was well acted with a solid plot with very good direction, a definite classic.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Real BOYZ IN THE HOOD June 29 2004
People tend to have short memories. Cooley High, while an interesting film about the urban black experience seems to be dwarfed by newer black films. Not only this, but the film Boyz in the Hood is a direct rip off of this film. The plotlines are very similar, with the protagonist who is about to make it out of the ghetto eventually struck down in their prime. Anyone who sees this and Boyz in the Hood will realize that John Singleton is a sham and that his "breakthrough" work, Boyz in the Hood, was actually a remake of Cooley High.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Love it June 29 2004
Cooley High is a wonderful movie. It is funny and sad at the same time. I am happy that it is on DVD, because I have a VHS copy and I can forward to my favorite scenes. You must own this.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Trip Down Memory Lane June 22 2004
By A Customer
I recall watching this movie at my 7th. grade English teacher's home when it debuted because she was one of the very few people who had cable TV at this time. This movie along with Cornbread Earl and Me hold a deep connection with me as I can still recall the music and general style of the late 60's and early 70's. The main characters were/are so easy for me to relate to that I always have the same touching reaction whenever I think about their story. I almost feel like I knew Preach and Cochise because their characters are so authentic. I played this DVD for a group of my contemporary friends and I saw tears in the eyes of the men as well as the women. Although the audio on the DVD is very poor, Cooley High is at the top of my DVD collection. The ending alone makes this movie a pure classic.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A coming-of-age film unlike any other I've seen March 22 2004
By Daniel Jolley TOP 50 REVIEWER
I worked my way backwards in time to this movie, so my reaction may be different than that of reviewers who saw Cooley High when it was released in 1975. I had never even heard of the movie until I learned that the TV show What's Happening?? was inspired in part by it. Cooley High turned out to be a much different movie than I was expecting. This isn't just three young guys hanging around having fun, this is a gritty, honest, realistic look at the experiences of a group of poor African-American teenagers living on the other side of the tracks in 1964 Chicago. The two main characters are Preacher, played by Glynn Turman, and Cochise, played by Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs. In case you have the same questions I had, let me go ahead and give you the answers: Yes, Glynn Turman went on to play Colonel Taylor on A Different World, and yes, Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs played Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington on Welcome Back, Kotter. Preach is a smart young man who wants to become a screenwriter in Hollywood, and Cochise is a star athlete with a recently-acquired scholarship to Grambling. The two of them are also, to be frank, juvenile delinquents who engage in all sorts of petty crimes, use drugs and alcohol, and hang out with the wrong crowd (albeit that is pretty much the only crowd there is in the neighborhood as it is presented here).
I tried to force the image of Raj from What's Happening?? onto Preach in the beginning, but it does not fit at all. Preach is smart, reads and writes poetry, studies history for fun, and even has a younger sister named Dee, but he is no Raj; he hardly ever goes to class and seems determined to flunk out of high school. Cochise is also no fan of school or studying, and he's basically coasting his way through high school, scholarship offer already in hand.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mama knows Best Feb. 12 2004
This is mama's favorite movie. She used to watch it all the time on video, and I didn't have much time for it myself personally. Then when it came out on DVD, I bought it for her birthday and watched it all the way through for the first time. I cried, ya'll. This movie is very touching and all the sixties music is real nice.
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This is a wonderful, warm, and realistic look at urban teenage life in the 1960s as seen through the 1970s, and is still relevant to today because of the well-drawn characters and the low-key approach to the friendship between protagonists Cochise (basketball star) and Preacher (hidden poet).
The productions values are low and the sound is somewhat muffled -- I doubt much could be done to improve it -- but these don't stand in the way of enjoying this heart-felt film. The acting, the script, and the keep-it-real direction carry it all the way. The film moves at a leisurely pace, slowly developing our connection to the characters through clever and often hilarious scenes of teens being teens, yet hinting to us of a serious story and serious consequences developing underneath. The pay-off is emotionally explosive but completely appropriate. Few movies about high school have such a perfect mix of elements. (And the score of early 60s motown hits is a blast.)
Sadly, MGM released this disc in a pan-and-scan only version. A widescreen release would be much appreciated.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Shouldn't be missed Jan. 21 2004
I absolutely love this movie. It's got to be one of the best coming-of-age films ever made. All the characters seem like they fell directly out of your childhood. With the Motown beat backing up the script it simply can't miss. Every time I see the end when the Four Tops "I'll be There" kicks in, I can't help but get chills as the main character sprints out of that cemetary and into an uncertain future. The death of his friend is the obvious demarcation of their childhoods from their adulthoods.
Can anyone honestly say that today's Hollywood could make anything even remotely close to this in style and quality? Of course not! (OK, I exaggerate a bit, but let's face it, most of what's coming out of Hollywood these days is shet!) Do not miss this one; it's an extremely underrated sleeper that'll hit you on every emotional level. It came on the heels of American Graffiti and is every bit as good.
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