{2jtab: Movie Review}

Waiting for Superman


3 Stars

There’s a harsh reality for public education presented in Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for Superman and an even harsher lesson to be learned for its filmmaker.  Having directed Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, Guggenheim is no stranger to documentary filmmaking and social concerns.  Yet, the problem with his construction is not for lack of interest in the subject; it’s that he doesn’t focus the blame tight enough.  Sure, the system is broken.  Very few people will argue against that, but what of the individual student?  Isn’t there some responsibility there?  According to Guggenheim, there isn’t and – for me – that’s a huge misstep in this social commentary.

Titled after a childhood memory of Geoffrey Canada, one of the charter school movement’s prominent leader, Waiting for Superman chronicles the woes in public education that leaves America’s children wanting for direction, seemingly failed by a broken system.  While thought-provoking and interesting, Guggenheim can’t - or won’t - focus on some real problems that affect public education: dysfunctional parents, an ignorant society that prides itself on being stupid, and the irresponsibly disruptive student.  These are real issues unaddressed by Guggenheim…which is unfortunate because it really does limit the debate on what he is documenting.

Yet, to his credit, Guggenheim does create a pretty clear-cut graphic savvy presentation to support his opinions.  Lessons learned from An Inconvenient Truth, I suppose.  The information is backed-up, credited, and clearly presented to the audience.  Shocking enough?  Oh, I am sure there are folks out there who have no idea just how bad public education has become, but – if there’s a real shocker here – it’s in Guggenheim’s turn at side-stepping the camera.  He lets the victims – the children – do the talking.  This is their moment; their passion and that makes all the difference in the world when it comes to the overall impact of this documentary.  Without ego, without melodrama, their issues are presented.

While some of Guggenheim’s arguments don’t always seem relevant to fixing the problems of public education, he does supply plenty of food for thought.  Still, when he pulls too much drama from his argument – especially when it comes to the bold comparisons between prisons and schools – there is a juvenile weakness in what he is suggesting in how to improve schools.

Guggenheim’s film is a beginning to the public debate that needs to happen.  Yet, it could get scarier because what schools and its administrators do with this information is the real concern.  The past has shown that, when the government gets involved with education, the end result is a bunch of silliness (yes, NCLB, I am talking to you) involving a standardized test…which, ultimately, measures nothing but basic memorization skills as teachers are expected to stifle real learning in favor of passing what someone else has judged to be worthy of learning.  Hopefully, this film is the beginning of real change, real debate, and real promise for better days to come…hopefully…but only if the individual – and not just the system (which is where Guggenheim’s film places the blame) – accepts their responsibility in this enormous error in education...and upbringing.

Waiting for Superman might not be the true caped avenger America needs to swoop in and save the day, but it’s a heroic step – albeit a very tiny one – in the right direction.


{2jtab: Film Info}

Waiting for SupermanMPAA Rating: PG for some thematic material, mild language and incidental smoking.
: Davis Guggenheim
: Davis Guggenheim
Cast: The Black Family; Geoffrey Canada; The Esparza Family
Genre: Documentary
Memorable Movie Quote:
"You wake every morning knowing that kids are getting a crappy education right now"
The fate of our country won't be decided on a battlefield, it will be determined in a classroom.
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date: October 8, 2010
Blu-ray/DVD Release Date:
February 15, 2011

Synopsis: 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, and ultimately questioning the role of unions in maintaining the status quo, 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.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Details}

Waiting for Superman - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Blu-ray Disc
3 Stars
3 Stars
Blu-ray Experience
3 Stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - February 15, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.78:1
: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (less)
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)



  • Feature-length commentary with Director Davis Guggenheim and Producer Lesley Chilcott discuss why this is an important documentary.

Special Features:

  • Changing the Odds (1080p, 5:34): A look at the importance of solving the problem of eduction; the piece plays like the film in a nutshell.
  • Updates (1080p): A few text-based updates to some of the issues raised in the film.
  • A Conversation with Davis Guggenheim (1080p, 1:44): A short animated sit-down with the Director.
  • The Future is in Our Classrooms (1080p, 2:09): A PSA-like plea for bettering education.
  • The Making of "Shine" (1080p, 7:02)


Deleted Scenes (1080p, 31:15): Keith and Tiffany, Locke High and Steve Barr, Bill Strickland, and The Green Family.

{2jtab: Trailer}