Over the past week, the country has been buzzing about Oscar winning director Davis Guggenheim’s latest project Waiting for Superman. The film exposes the flaws in the educational system here in the United States and follows the lives of a handful of students who are affected by it. Here’s what critics have to say about Waiting for Superman...

The Set Up:

The film appeals to the head in contending (often via jaunty animation, archival pop cultural clips, and similar infotainment tricks from the Michael Moore school of showmanship) that one of the biggest obstacles to educational reform is the intractability and political power of teachers’ unions, which protect the incompetent and subpar among members. But the movie goes right to the heart in focusing on the fates of some irresistibly real kids and the loving, frustrated parents and grandparents who care for them. [EW]

The Kids:

The kids chosen after a search that was narrowed first to 20, then five, are stoic, funny, determined, earnest and smart. They all have parents or grandparents forming a net of emotional, if not economic, support. Though most are living below or near the poverty line, they seem to have everything else going for them — except for the failing public schools to which they are assigned. So disarming is this group, it’s easy to understand why the film won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered early this year. [Courant]

The Direction:

To Guggenheim’s credit, though, “Waiting for ‘Superman’ ” is well made, with plenty of clear-cut graphics to help make his points (he learned a lot from Gore’s lecture hall tricks). Unlike, say, a Michael Moore movie, everything is pretty well sourced, too, with an end-credits roll that basically serves as a set of footnotes. And to the film’s great benefit, Guggenheim — while serving as interviewer — stays modestly off-screen. There are no gratuitous reaction shots, as we’ve seen in other bits of op-ed filmmaking, of the director looking snarkily amused, or melodramatically aghast, as his subjects talk. [NJ.com]


Unfortunately, the reality is that Guggenheim’s documentary — which has received huge support from its movie company for advertising and promotion — will still struggle to reach a wide audience. Waiting for ‘Superman’ seems to say that we are the only change-agents who can solve this problem — but actually reaching that audience is an uphill struggle in a country that’s more caught up in who will be the new judges on “American Idol” than what’s happening in its local schools. [Huffington Post]

Are you interested in seeing Waiting for Superman?