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  • Higher Learning [VHS]
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Higher Learning [VHS]

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Product Details

  • Actors: Omar Epps, Kristy Swanson, Michael Rapaport, Jennifer Connelly, Ice Cube
  • Directors: John Singleton
  • Writers: John Singleton
  • Producers: John Singleton, Dwight Williams, Paul Hall
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Sony Pictures
  • VHS Release Date: January 7, 1997
  • Run Time: 127 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 630350986X
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #286,711 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews


This ambitious 1995 film by John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood) doesn't quite succeed at painting the illuminating, collective portrait of college life in the '90s that the director seeks. But Singleton does do a fine job of defining some conflicting impulses for young people on the cusp of adulthood, particularly the desire to broaden horizons on the one hand and circle the wagons with like-minded allies on the other. Students in the film's Columbus University divide themselves along lines of race, sexual preferences, ideology, and, most dangerously, levels of paranoia. Among the fine cast is Michael Rapaport, who portrays a loner drawn to a local community of neo-Nazis. His resultant problems with the school's African-Americans takes over the story at the expense of other, parallel dramas, but Singleton's insights into race hatred on campus--a microcosm of the surrounding culture--is not to be dismissed. --Tom Keogh

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mr. B. G. Fowler on July 2, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
'Higher Learning' is one of those rare college movies that actually has a lot to say and doesn't come across as pompous, schmaltzy or boring. It focuses on several students from different backgrounds who have all come to Columbus university with different expectations of what uni life will be like. First of all there's Epps, a scholar who has to use his spare time on the track to fund his tuition fees and who gradually finds himself involved in a race war on campus. There's also Swanson as a pretty white girl who, after being date raped, finds herself palling up with Connelly, the college feminist and a lesbian. However, perhaps the most powerful performance of all comes from Rapaport as a lonely kid who finds himself falling in with some neo-Nazis.
The emphasis here seems to be on the conflict between wanting to be your own person but still craving conformity and acceptance from others. The racial friction is handled with a sensitivity and intelligence which unfortunately seems abnormal in many films, not just teen ones. It's also a mercy that such stunning actors were given the roles, with both Epps and Rappoport bringing real sympathy to their roles. This is some feat considering Rappoport becomes a neo-Nazi towards the end. The fact that the director shows such sensitivity to such obnoxious characters speaks volumes of the quality of the movie.
If there's any quibbles it's over the stereotyping of Connelly's role, as it comes over that her lesbianity must breed a hatred towards men. This is something that Connelly should not be given, as she is an incredible actress in her own right. Apart from that though, this really is a very good film indeed that will really make you care for its characters, especially because even their most heinous actions are shown to have a reason. This is the thinking teen movie, and actually quite unnerving too.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Vato-Curandero on April 25, 2005
Format: DVD
Higher Learning had the potential to be a really great movie portraying college life, identity crisis, and social conflict during one's freshman year at a university. Director John Singleton assembled a talented cast, including Laurence Fishburne, Omar Epps, Kristi Swanson, Jennifer Connelly, Ice Cube, Tyra Banks and Michael Rappaport. Unfortunately, Higher Learning does not live up to its potential.

Why doesn't Higher Learning live it up to its promise? Because John Singleton couldn't decide on what kind of movie he wanted to make. The first hour of Higher Learning is the movie's strong point. Here we watch students arrive for their first day on campus, move in, decorate their walls, and adjust to life away from home. Anyone who has ever lived in a dormitory can relate to this experience. It is also during the first hour where Singleton brings up issues relating to racial conflict, sexual assault, money problems, alienation, and the struggles of balancing school work with a job and social life - all issues that anyone attending a college or university must contend with.

However, Singleton loses focuses in the second half of the film. What began as a fairly decent social drama quickly descends into an adrenaline-pumping action film/thriller. While the film remains engaging throughout the second half, you can't help but feel that Higher Learning is essentially two different movies.

Here is what would have made higher learning a top notch film. First, add an extra hour of movie time. A truly insightful drama regarding the complexities of college life needs to be three hours in length. Second, scrap the whole Malik vs. Remy subplot and instead focus on the character development of each man and each's adjustment to university life.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nuisance on December 2, 2008
Format: UMD for PSP
Higher Learning came and went in theaters due to its nature and content. Movies that focus on issues of race will always get mixed reviews. So the masses either slept on it or allowed WASP-owned publications like Jive...oops I meant Vibe ragazine and countless other ragazines to persuade their opinions. So it fell on deaf ears and John Singleton was forced to make MTV-style fodder like 2 Fast 2 Furious, Baby Boy and Illegal Tender. Had this movie been accepted with all its flaws, I believe that Singleton would have still made movies with substance.

Higher Learning is centered around 3 people: Kristen(Kristy Swanson), Malik Williams(Omar Epps) and Remy(Michael Rapaport). Kristen has trouble fitting in and after getting raped she befriends an female activist(played by Jennifer Connelly) and joins her movement. Malik Williams is a track star that has to deal with a stern professor named Maurice Phipps(Laurence Fishburne) and a track coach that has no time for tardiness from Malik. He has problems in class as well as problems on the track and he befriends Fudge(Ice Cube) as well as an attractive female track runner named Deja(Tyra Banks). Remy is from Idaho and has problems adjusting to college life. He ends up making friends with skinheads whose wrongheaded advice and racial bias change him for the worst.

Higher Learning has its flaws: the pacing is meandering, Scott's(the leader of the skinheads in this movie) goons are unconvincing and Busta Rhymes is so out of place in this movie that you unintentionally laugh at him when he is on screen. Omar Epps does a good job as the well-intentioned but somewhat naive Malik. Michael Rapaport does as well as the confused Remy. Fudge is probably Ice Cube's best performance on screen.
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