User Score
7.4

Generally favorable reviews- based on 46 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 38 out of 46
  2. Negative: 4 out of 46

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  1. Sep 15, 2011
    8
    Criticizing and mocking the American education using original techniques, "Waiting for Superman" clearly delivers the audience what it wants.
  2. Dec 14, 2011
    6
    Waiting for 'Superman' may thematically be one of the most important documentaries in recent U.S. history. The educational system is in dire need of help, and this film provides clear alternatives and points out who is to blame for the lack of willingness to cooperate and rejuvenate the system. Technically, the film is not that great. It is very long, and it lacks cohesion. It is all over the place and while it focuses on a number of families, it is still too large in scope. The D.C. focus is nice, but is not substantiate by any reasoning behind it. Was it because it was a success story? Or was it because it was D.C.? Or some other reason? Nonetheless, it has some good moments, and the ending sequences of the acceptance lottery are heartbreaking to say the least. Thematically excellent, technically not quite there. Good film, overall. 6/10 Collapse
  3. Dec 23, 2010
    9
    A must see film if you want to know why the education system doesn't work.
    It is done on the US but I think many of the problems can be related to any other country like Canada.
    It is unexpectedly touching.
    The graphs, the story telling, all is well done. A time you wont regret.
  4. Nov 5, 2010
    7
    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
  5. Mar 5, 2011
    10
    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!
  6. Mar 9, 2011
    9
    Very powerful movie, it really sheds light on one of the biggest problems with our education system, unions control over the entire system. There were a couple of scenes of teachers in class that were just shocking, thank god my kids are in a better school district than those depicted in this film, however, the national statistics are shocking for American schools from coast to coast. This is a film that every registered voter and parent should see, a real eye opener. I had never heard of "rubber rooms" before, what an incredible waste of all of our tax money (you'll have to see the film). For years I assumed that the worst school districts were bad primarily because of poor parenting, crime, etc. in urban areas, however, the bigger problem is poor teachers, lack of discipline, and teachers unions that prevent even the most obvious positive changes to be made because they may effect the overall power of the the unions. If everyone in Minnesota saw this film they would be on the side of Governor Walker who wants to limit the powers of public unions, this is the only way our schools will EVER improve. This is not to say that teachers are bad but the crappy ones need to go NOW and the good ones need to be rewarded for their hard work. One of the problems with unions is that they provide absolutely NO incentive for a good teacher to work any harder than the worst teacher who sleeps in class while the kids run wild. No private business would ever survive with scores of bad employees who cannot be fired because they get tenure after just 2 YEARS! Its is insanity, the ending of this movie was very powerful and so sad at the same time. If we could cut through the B.S. we could change our schools so quickly but we the taxpayers need to wake up and raise our voice Expand
  7. Oct 30, 2010
    5
    "Waiting for 'Superman'" is a documentary that is about a very important aspect of our country, and one that really should be getting Americans angry and upset about. The current state of education in America is abysmal, and while this documentary doesn't skimp on the details, but what it does lack is the power of motivating anyone to want to do much. It is sadly stagnant when it comes to inspiring the viewer to want to do anything about the situation. Even the children and parents they show struggling to get an education seem subdued and distant. It does a skillful job at presenting the facts and flaws in our society, but lacks the heart and drive to make anyone want to do anything about it. Expand
  8. Sep 27, 2010
    10
    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!
  9. Oct 23, 2010
    9
    This documentary looks at the sad, sorry state of the US public education system. In addition to staggering statistics, the film follows the plight of several students who are caught in failure-prone schools. They end up at lotteries for charter schools in a sequence that's suspenseful, joyful and tearful. The picture this film paints is bleak and dramatic, but it also offers hope. It's the kind of doc everyone should see, but the heavy approach will keep it from mainstream appreciation. Expand
  10. Feb 6, 2011
    8
    There was another movie about a similar subject called "The Lottery". The movie was solely about the charter schools lotteries, it wasn't committed on the broken school system. Waiting For Superman is completely different. It took on an in depth look at our public school systems and how damaged it is over the years. It isn't a subject that everyone cares about, but it is definitely an important documentary that Davis Duggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) wanted people to see. Expand
  11. Feb 20, 2011
    0
    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.
  12. Mar 12, 2011
    5
    I remember there was a surprise when Waiting For "Superman" did not make the Oscars list of the Top 10 documentaries. Documentaries do not usually get that much publicity and when one does, such as this one did last year, people naturally expect it to win awards. But I understand why it was left off. It's disjointed. It wanders around and lacks a smooth narrative flow. The subject matter is very interesting. What is wrong with America's schools? It presents multiple options on why schools fail and seems to settle on the teacher's unions. The unions are opposed to change and use their power to prevent any of it. The most amazing section is when a student carrying a secret camera in his backpack shows multiple teachers in his school saying they weren't doing anything that day and sit back and read the newspaper. The news aired the tape and the superintendent fired the teachers. However, the teachers had tenure. Under the contract, the superintendent was forced to rehire these teachers and pay them a year's back pay. It is nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher. Doctor's and lawyer's commonly lose their licenses for shoddy work, but teachers almost never lose their licenses and can really negatively impact a child's education. There is some suspense at the end when the handful of individual students the film followed are waiting to find out if they made it into charter schools, but the overall impact of the students falling through the cracks and failing schools does not really hit home. There are plenty of scenes to make the audience upset and wish for change, but it ultimately falls flat. Expand
  13. Apr 19, 2011
    6
    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
  14. May 24, 2013
    4
    Waiting for Superman attempts to understand the failings of the American Education system, many of which could also be applied on a smaller scale to schools in areas of the UK.

    The movies intentions are certainly noble. It does a great job of highlighting the unfairness of the system where luck seems to the single most important factor in deciding whether a child will receive a good
    education. It is difficult not to feel for the parents and grandparents who only want their child to be given a chance.

    Having recently quit the teaching profession after only five years however I can say with confidence that Waiting for Superman does not tell the whole story. Firstly the families featured do not represent a fair cross section of those entering the school system. Each have a genuine interest in education and, from personal experience, I know that is certainly not the case for all children and their parents.

    The movie attacks so called 'poor' teachers and teachers unions, seemingly laying a large proportion of the blame at their doorstep. Of course there are bad teachers (as there are bad professionals in any job) but it ignores the fact that many public schools in the US, and UK for that matter, are underfunded and understaffed resulting in overcrowded classes and little assistance for teachers.

    The education system is obviously in need of major changes but Waiting for Superman's solutions are a little too simplistic, ignoring wider social and economic issues choosing instead to use personal stories to play on the emotions of the viewer.
    Expand
  15. May 10, 2011
    0
    Waiting for Superman? ***Spoiler*** Well don't, he doesn't show up at all. Color me disapointed. They couldn't even be bothered to get Dean Cain... and he would have done it for a Snickers bar. Very misleading title.
  16. Jul 15, 2011
    9
    A very bold look at the truth behind America's under-performing public school system. A look at 4 various families coming from different backgrounds, with one goal: Get there kid on the right track to future success. Finally, someone gives the "right" side on how to help America's school system, push Unions aside, and fire the "bad lemons" of the public school system. Of course, I don't see many Teacher Unions embracing such an enlightening film, most likely because the film pushes the envelope on changing the system. Expand
  17. j30
    Sep 22, 2011
    9
    Informative, touching, and powerful. Is there anything else you could ask for in a documentary?
  18. Feb 22, 2013
    5
    Waiting For "Superman" is an inside look at the problems with education in America. The film is extremely eye-opening, showing just how bad a state most of our education systems are in. They clearly illustrate that no matter the area, teachers are failing America's youth at an alarming rate. I found the film to be very biased though, as it only points out what's wrong with the system, and fails to mention any of the positives that still exist in education. It also fails to offer solutions for the problems. Guggenheim throws lots of facts and figures at us and repeats the same themes. It gets to a point where he's just beating us over the head with the same concepts. Many people saw this as an inspirational call to action, but me, I saw it as a guy complaining. Honestly, if you can't offer up a solution than why present the problem? I'm pretty sure that almost everyone in America knows how bad education has gotten, even if they don't have the exact figures in front of them. Expand
  19. Apr 13, 2013
    9
    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.
  20. Jul 16, 2012
    8
    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.

    Leer más: http://cineplacebos.webnode.es/news/educando-sin-criterio/
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Metascore
81

Universal acclaim - based on 31 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 31
  2. Negative: 0 out of 31
  1. 70
    This documentary about the public education crisis isn't as smart or rigorous as Bob Bowdon's shoestring production "The Cartel," which arrived in town earlier this year and quickly vanished. But the new movie is still an admirable exercise in straight talk.
  2. By showing how fiercely dedicated idealists are making a difference, it is a call to arms.
  3. 67
    Nobody can disagree that Waiting for Superman deals with a subject demanding attention. But it paints the engulfing problems of U.S. education with a brush too broad and samples too small to be definitive.