Lou Gossett, Jr. (shown below), as the smart, kindly gardener who becomes the boy's surrogate father figure and all-round good-guy helper.
Mark Young (shown at right), the movie covers everything from the ghetto (bad family life, drugs and crime) to the religious school (racist, white-bread kids) with a been-there/seen-that flatness that is easy to understand and digest but offers little originality or surprise. A bit of the latter is provided by Lauren Holly, playing the school's chain-smoking, tippling teacher, who's lived in Africa, has some heavy-duty problems and does not take an immediate liking to the Sanders character. (This interesting actress has a lovely moment -- shown below -- on a rooftop late in the movie, as she explains what it was that god "told" her. )
But the scenes between Sanders and Gossett are heavy-handed, and sometimes plain ignorant. Gossett's little sermon regarding the mistake Sanders made in punching out his father registered as utter BS to this particular viewer. (That father, shown in the flashback above, had a history of stealing money from his wife and beating bloody his own child. So, sure: Deck him, for Christ's sake.) Further, a last-minute "saving" of our hero from the bad guys is simply ridiculous: far too convenient and coincidental. Buy this, and they'll be after you to buy that bridge in Brooklyn.