Throughout, Reynolds' staging and camera choices tend to alienate viewers from the students, putting us behind Garfield's spectacles despite his crazed partial view. The result is to demonize youth and obfuscate the issues. This movie panders to the popular belief that vicious kids rather than cost-cutting state and federal governments are to blame for educational catastrophes. A truly daring movie about today's schools wouldn't merely attack young thugs' adoption of California state penal code 187 as a tag of honor; it would also attack their parents' love for Proposition 13.
Samuel L. Jackson, John Heard, Kelly Rowan, Clifton Gonzalez Gonzalez, Karina Arroyave. Written by Scott Yagemann. Directed by Kevin Reynolds. Opens Friday.