Cover Art and Menu:
Standard movie, standard cover. Swank is the star so she gets the biggest face:) The menu is just functional with some video in the background. It’s a no frills movie so I guess they matched it with a no frills package.
Extras & Features:
- Deleted Scenes – These scenes have potential to fill in the movie a little bit here and there, but for some reason they chose to chop them out.
- Commentary By Director Richard LaGravenese & Hilary Swank – I’ll be honest, I didn’t listen to the commentary. It’s a good thing to have, but when I’m not that hyped up about the movie, I don’t really want to watch again and listen to how it was put together.
- The Story Behind Freedom Writers – This isn’t really a behind the scenes, but it does show that the movie is based on a true story, a real teacher and her class. It’s more of a TV feature that would be shown to promote the movie, and less of a DVD feature that gives us more incite into the movie.
- Making A Dream Featurette – This is more in depth coverage of the real people behind the story and how the cast was chosen, including Swank.
- Freedom Writers Family Featurette – More information about the real story behind the movie.
- Photo Gallery – Riddle me this Batman: Why is a photo gallery still considered an extra?
The Movie: 6/10
Every few years we get a story about a teacher who turns things around for some troubled group of kids. I don’t mind, they are always semi-inspirational and always a solid film watching experience. It’s just that after a while, it turns into an instructional video and less of a movie with entertainment value.
Swank is good, of course. The kids are all excellent, no doubt. This is based on a real teacher who did just what is depicted in the movie, so that’s cool. The problem for me is that it’s the same thing we’ve seen before. City kids who have trauma in their lives, horrible awful trauma, that follows them to school. Their attitudes and behavior is effected and the school system isn’t trying to help, just shuffle them through.
One young naive teacher comes along and tries to change things. She puts her own money, effort and time on the line to teach the kids things they would have never learned. It’s noble and a wonderful thing to know that a real life young woman actually did this stuff and changed the lives of many young people, but as a movie it feels contrived and sometimes overly feel good.
I liked it and enjoyed it, I just felt like I was seeing a remake of the idea that other films like Dangerous Minds, Remember the Titans, Lean on Me, and even Dead Poets Society have served up before. Not that all movies and stories aren’t rehashed human tales, but this kind of teacher student story seems to always have the same arc.
Troubled kids don’t like the teacher. The teacher does something to earn their trust. The kids like the teacher. The kids’ lives are changed. In the story some bad stuff goes on with at least one kid where their own life is headed toward a bad turn and as a sub plot we watch as they either overcome or succumb to their tragic fate.
Dare I say this is a feel good flick to some degree? I say it is and it’s well made. That I can’t emphasize enough. It’s not done with too much sap or emotion, so that’s a huge bonus. It’s smart and may even stand the test of time through the next few generations of “teacher as motivator” movies inevitably come to the big screen.
In thinking this is a rental all the way. I don’t really need this DVD on my shelf for all eternity. If you dig this kind of story and are inspired by the true tale behind the project, you might want to buy it and show it off as a motivational thing, but if that’s the case, you won’t care how much it costs 🙂 The extras are fairly flat and the movie hovers over average, so it’s not a stellar package deal.
Overall Score 5/5