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Generally favorable reviews- based on 47 Ratings

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  • Summary: For a nation that proudly declared it would leave no child behind, America continues to do so at alarming rates. Despite increased spending and politicians’ promises, our buckling public—education system, once the best in the world, routinely forsakes the education of millions of children. Oscar winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim reminds us that education “statistics” have names: Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily, whose stories make up the engrossing foundation of Waiting for Superman. As he follows a handful of promising kids through a system that inhibits, rather than encourages, academic growth, Guggenheim undertakes an exhaustive review of public education, surveying “drop—out factories” and “academic sinkholes,” methodically dissecting the system and its seemingly intractable problems. However, embracing the belief that good teachers make good schools, Guggenheim offers hope by exploring innovative approaches taken by education reformers and charter schools that have—in reshaping the culture—refused to leave their students behind. (Paramount Vantage Point) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 31
  2. Negative: 0 out of 31
  1. Reviewed by: Scott Bowles
    It's an apt title. As divisive as the issue has become, it's hard to deny the power of Guggenheim's lingering shots on these children, waiting on a superhero who isn't going to come.
  2. This is a time when urgent issues are often explored in polemic documentaries, as well as a fateful moment when the future of public education is being debated with unprecedented intensity. Waiting for 'Superman' makes an invaluable addition to the debate.
  3. Much of the film is told compellingly and heartbreakingly through the wide-eyed innocence of five children.
  4. Why are innovative educators met with so much resistance? And why is our system falling so painfully short? Perhaps ­because so many of us don't realize just how dire things ­really are.
  5. 75
    The most suspenseful sequence of any movie I've seen this year comes near the end of Waiting for Superman.
  6. 75
    The film is more overwhelming than uplifting.
  7. Guggenheim's insistence on not engaging with the injustices that children of certain races and classes face outside of school makes his reiteration of the obvious-that "past all the noise and the debate, nothing will change without great teachers"-seem all the more willfully naïve.

See all 31 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 16 out of 22
  2. Negative: 2 out of 22
  1. Sep 27, 2010
    This is a powerful and important movie about our country's future -- and it's enjoyable to watch, with compelling characters and drama. Don't miss it! Expand
  2. Mar 5, 2011
    A must see movie if you care to find out why American educational system today is not as efficient as before. Touching stories of several people and a great deal of data in this movie, don't miss it in the tide of new movies! Expand
  3. Apr 13, 2013
    As important as this is to the masses, we should be more concerned about that, than whether or not it entertains or pulls the right strings. But it happens to be very well made. End of review. Expand
  4. Jul 16, 2012
    Amargas lágrimas que derrama una madre con un profundo sentimiento de impotencia ante un sistema sin opciones. La frustración de querer lo mejor para sus hijos y simplemente las decisiones políticas que mantienen un status quo de mediocridad. Un sistema educativo que no cumple con los mínimos para formar generaciones de líderes, sino estándares de pobreza y analfabetismo para la vida. Waiting for Superman es un documental que revela el agujero por dónde se desagua toda la credibilidad de una nación, por donde se filtra todo el temor de los padres americanos que sólo creyeron en un proyecto de nación y hoy tienen uno de los peores sistemas educativos de los países llamados de primer mundo.

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  5. Nov 5, 2010
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. The filmmaker got lucky, really, really lucky, when Nupur Lala, one of the eight kids Jeffrey Blitz selected to profile for his documentary about the annual pilgrimage to Washington D.C. that all spelling champions make, from all walks of life, including Lala, a Tampa, Florida native, actually won the 1999 Scripps-Howard Spelling Bee, providing "Spellbound" with a fortuitous climax which the filmmaker couldn't have scripted better himself. It was a serendipitous outcome that gave the documentary an unexpected inspirational sports-movie sheen, and as a result, "Spellbound" did boffo business at the box office(for a non-fiction film), paving the way for Scott McGhee's "Bee Season" and Doug Atchison's "Akeelah & the Bee", all because The Tampa Times representative could spell "logorrhea" without a hitch. No such luck for the man who helmed the Al Gore-love fest "An Inconvenient Truth"(a sort of "Waiting for Captain Ozone"), initially anyway, whose underprivileged young subjects(with one notable exception) are all losers(with the same notable exception) at their respective lotteries, denying "Waiting for Superman" the emotional uplift you get from a Hollywood ending. It's a counterbalancing act that the film could have used to offset the dreary account of our malfunctioning public school system, if only for a little while. In this case, when real lives are on the line, happy endings are cathartic, not hokey. One lucky child, just one, we ask, be granted the opportunity to rise above the scorched schoolyards, and one child does get lucky, does indeed get the opportunity to rise above, but it's the wrong child. When Emily's number is called at her lottery station, we're happy for the middle-schooler; she looks thrilled, good for her, but it won't set off a chorus of cheers from moviegoers; no jubilant tears and no dancing in the aisles either, and that's because Emily is white, upper-class, and lives in a very affluent neighborhood. The moviegoer likes an underdog. The golden ticket that grants a child entrance into Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory should go to somebody like Charlie Bucket, not Violet Beauegarde. Bianca is an underdog, and when her name goes uncalled, we can literally see the light go out of her eyes. The Hispanic girl with the tiny voice understands all at once that she's been deprived of a golden ticket, and more likely than not, as a result of her bad draw, probably won't be going to the veterinarian school of her dreams. That's quite a tough pill to swallow for someone so unformed. Is her life really over, as "Waiting for Superman" implicitly suggests? Despite given less to work with, the Esparza girl may prove to be the exception to the rule, but the hard numbers say otherwise, even if she overachieves at one of these so-called "drop-out factories", because the girl will be subjected to an inferior curriculum that won't fully prepare her for the dog-eat-dog world of university admissions, let alone, university itself. But here's where things get truly alarming: to a lesser degree, the same reality applies to Emily if she goes to her preordained high school. The rich don't have the same problems as the poor, but they're problems, nevertheless. Instead of Stanford or USC, Emily may end up at San Diego State or UC Santa Cruz. That's a compromise many people from disadvantaged backgrounds would take in a heartbeat, if you consider the option, shrewdly explicated in Keenan Ivory Wayans' "Dance Flick", when Thomas(Damon Wayans Jr.) gets admitted to Just Community College. According to "Waiting for Superman", the crisis in education is no longer a problem unique to the other half; the crisis has reached epidemic proportions, escaping containment in the ghettos and spreading out to the gated communities, where pressing matters get noticed, hence the inclusion of Emily as a victim of the same system that previously afflicted only the minorities. Get over yourselves. The educational quagmire created by the special interests of the teachers unions has left nothing but destruction in its wake, so there is no time to make this a black and white thing. We're losing people. Wonder Woman(Michelle Rhee) has left the building. But there's still going to be short-sighted critics who'll have a problem with the filmmaker's agenda to place the haves and have-nots on the same side. Lucky for him, Anthony, the D.C. youth who was placed on a waiting list(five names-deep), finally gets called by the prestigious boarding school, then makes a visit there, where he and claims his bunk in his dorm room, giving "Waiting for Superman", ironically, an ending similar to Lisa Cholodenko's "The Kids are Alright" when Joni says goodbye to the two moms. You wonder about Laser and his best friend who tortures him. He's the sort of "American Idiot" that the doc makes a case against. Is Laser at a good school? They both go there. Expand
  6. Apr 19, 2011
    This documentary addresses the failure of public education in America, an overwhelming issue for the past several decades . Lack of a quality-based salary system for teachers (tradition of public employment system) is shown to be a big obstacle for improving the system. A fair deal of statistics and history is discussed. I believe, however, some important factors which relate to the poor performance of school kids are not presented. Education and income level of parents, value of education in family, average level of education in the neighborhood, inefficient curriculum, and insufficiently-educated teachers all strongly correlate with the decreasing performance level of students. Expand
  7. Feb 20, 2011
    A myopic, one-sided rant, long on bluster and woefully short on substance. While the film claims to analyze a serious issue, it's really a simple-minded attack on teacher's unions, with no solutions or insights offered. Expand

See all 22 User Reviews

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