Reviews: Waiting for 'Superman' and Freakonomics 3.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund
Quite possibly the most talked-about documentary in a year overflowing with them, the manifoldly educational “Waiting for Superman” is prime Oscar bait. The worst thing about it is it's fully aware of that. The notion that more effort has gone into the marketing of this standard-structure doc than the actual filmmaking persists like a devil on your shoulder, as does the feeling that the film itself is being plugged more than the issue it represents: the dire state of American public schools. Directed by “Inconvenient Truth”-helmer Davis Guggenheim and backed by Bill Gates and Microsoft, “Superman” (named for the send-us-a-hero desperation felt by many underprivileged students) presumably has enough money behind it to start a new chain of the charter schools it champions, let alone clinch a promotional appearance on every major news show in the country. Armed with subject matter that's about as Oprah-friendly as it gets (the talk-show giant, herself a major Oscar-influencer, has already devoted at least one full episode to it), the movie is one that's so outwardly admirable that few would dare stand against it, or notice that, compared with the many jewels of its genre, it's quite underwhelming.