New York Post film critic Kyle Smith deserves a Pulitzer Prize for his review of Won’t Back Down.

The rousing school-choice movie “Won’t Back Down” is (already!) inspiring teachers’ unions to protest it with its standard dial-a-mob tactics, but the film makes a serious effort to present the other side’s points.

This did not have to be the case. “The Silence of the Lambs,” for instance, made little effort to be fair to serial killers, nor did “Independence Day” lay out the point of view of the aliens. But I’m being unfair. Serial killers and alien armies, unlike teachers’ unions, don’t destroy the dreams of millions of poor black kids.


Smith later observes,

The movie makes some eccentric choices about visualizing some of the plot points (for instance, a set of bobblehead dolls are used for head-counting purposes as the leads try to get a majority of fellow teachers to vote for the new school). It can hit the drama pedal a little too eagerly (as when a black man named King casts an important vote right under a mural of Martin Luther King Jr.) Its production designer seems to think every home in the city is plastered with Steelers and Penguins memorabilia. And Gyllenhaal, very obviously a child of privilege, is not an ideal choice to play a daughter of the working class. She both overdoes the trashy look (I don’t see many receptionists who shampoo with 10W-40, as she appears to) and yet maintains her prep-school diction. In a world containing Marisa Tomei, why look anywhere else?

Smith does get one thing wrong.  Every house in Pittsburgh is plastered with Steelers and Penguins memorabilia.  The absence of Pirates memorabilia suggests that the production designer knows the city well.