Owen Gleiberman - Entertainment Weekly
However you take its politics, the film upholds a dreary tradition of simplifying and sentimentalizing matters of serious social concern, and dumbing down issues that call for clarity and creative thinking.
A.O. Scott - New York Times
Even terrific casting and a well-intentioned story don't add up to a wholehearted cinematic win.
Claudia Puig - USA Today
So didactic that viewers are likely to feel less uplifted than lectured.
Ann Hornaday - Washington Post
It has the boilerplate urgency of a TV movie that has been blessed with a high-end cast.
Ty Burr - Boston Globe
In Davis's case, marveling at yet another fine performance doesn't stop you from wishing that her first leading role was in a worthier vehicle.
Melissa Anderson - Village Voice
- New York Daily News
The plot is just a clothesline on which to hang an unabashedly biased diatribe.
Elizabeth Weitzman - New York Daily News
A film where typecasting and color-coding makes it easy to predict which characters are good or bad.
Roger Ebert - Chicago Sun-Times
A kind of Norma Rae for the Paul Ryan set ...
Steven Rea - Philadelphia Inquirer
"Won't Back Down" is to school reform what "Reefer Madness" is to drug policy.
Colin Covert - Minneapolis Star Tribune
[Barns] pours on the corn syrup pretty heavy in parts and it's pretty obvious the film has a clear agenda ...
Tom Long - Detroit News
It's rich territory for human drama; unfortunately, the film is more interested in slapping a charter-school Band-Aid on the gushing wound than exploring dramatic possibilities.
Barbara VanDenburgh - Arizona Republic
As a message picture, its heart is in the right place. Too bad it doesn't always manage to rise above a swirl of predictable Hollywood cliches.
Rex Reed - New York Observer
Grossly oversimplifying the issue at hand, writer-director Daniel Barnz's disingenuous pot-stirrer plays to audiences' emotions rather than their intelligence.
Peter Debruge - Variety
The film makes a serious effort to present the other side's points.
Kyle Smith - New York Post
- Toronto Star
Won't Back Down doesn't wholly make the grade.
Bruce Demara - Toronto Star
It's terrible when schools fail our children. But it's not so great when movies fail their actors, either.
Stephanie Zacharek - Film.com
A drama that's as intellectually crude as it is emotionally calculated.
Liam Lacey - Globe and Mail
Inept and bizarre ... a set of right-wing anti-union talking points disguised (with very limited success) as a mainstream motion-picture-type product.
Andrew O'Hehir - Salon.com
The hot-button issue of public school reform gets unsubtle treatment in this pedestrian and insultingly tendentious drama.
David Rooney - Hollywood Reporter
"Won't Back Down" lives down to its bland, us-against-them title with a simple-minded assault on the ills of public schools that lumbers along like a math class droning multiplication tables.
David Germain - Associated Press
Teachers unions are by no means perfect, but Won't Back Down turns them into public school enemy number one.
Mary F. Pols - TIME Magazine
So shamelessly manipulative and hopelessly bogus it will make you bite your tongue in regret and despair.
Kenneth Turan - Los Angeles Times
Funded by conservative Christian billionaire Phil Anschutz and released by rightwing overlord Rupert Murdoch, it attempts to fashion a feel-good family-friendly triumph of union busting and privatization.
Sean Burns - Philadelphia Weekly
While the story is predictable, it compensates for that with great acting and a noble purpose.
John Hanlon - Big Hollywood
A do-gooder movie so stupid and unoriginal it had to steal its title from a Tom Petty song.
Al Alexander - The Patriot Ledger
'Dumbing down' a film about educational reform defeats any point; while proficiently made, Won't Back Down's glib feel-good message deserves to fall on deaf ears.
Eddie Harrison - The List
As terrible as it sounds.
Alistair Harkness - Scotsman
An altogether crude, melodramatic and unhelpful picture.
Philip French - Observer [UK]
More anti-union propaganda masquerading as entertainment.
- This is London
All efforts to add zest to a serious subject fail.
Grant Rollings - Sun Online
A straight-talking, partisan account about the failings of a broken system and a band of women who argued for better for their children.
Joe Walsh - Little White Lies
It is well meant, undoubtedly about something that matters, and it bends over backwards not to trash the teachers' unions gratuitously, but amid the attempts at gritty reality, I found the happy-ending imperative unconvincing.
The forces of unionism are mainly pilloried as lazy sell-outs, which is a pity, because a lot of other tangy issues come into play here.
Tim Robey - Daily Telegraph
Emotionally engaging drama that compensates for its predictability with a pair of terrific performances by Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis, though it's also a little fuzzy on the actual details.
Matthew Turner - ViewLondon
Shamelessly manipulative, this propagandist drama purports to champion the democratisation of parents' choice yet is little more than a big, cinematic union bashing stick.
- Sky Movies
You might find the political tub-thumping behind this cockle-warming drama a tad disconcerting.
Andy Lea - Daily Star
Nell Minow - Movie Mom at Yahoo! Movies
Stephen Schaefer - Boston Herald
Dave White - Movies.com
- Austin Chronicle
John Hazelton - Screen International
- San Francisco Chronicle
Richard Roeper - ReelzChannel.com
Ella Taylor - NPR.org
It's allegedly "inspired by true events", but in much the same way that Yogi Bear is based on an actual bear.
The leads are fine, but the movie's about as fun as summer school.
Ken McIntyre - Total Film
... Gyllenhaal and Davis make a powerhouse team ...
Jim Lane - Sacramento News & Review
Divisive in its content but solid in its strong acting talent.
Jackie K. Cooper - jackiekcooper.com
It's not its anti-union take on the relevant issue, but the shallow treatment, cardboard characters, and overacting that bog down its well-intentioned message.
Bruce Bennett - Spectrum (St. George, Utah)
A lifeless film... The story is designed and decorated rather than told.
Jeffrey M. Anderson - Las Vegas Weekly
A lifeless film... the story is designed and decorated rather than told.
Jeffrey M. Anderson - Combustible Celluloid
Viewers will buy into the Erin Brockovich-style spunk Gyllenhaal provides, and Davis, an actor so emotional that even her nose cries on cue. It's not a bad movie, if you're inclined to be manipulated by impromptu romance and rousing changes of heart.
Steve Persall - Tampa Bay Times
It's a corporate-studio movie purporting that the working class needs to turn against their unions to survive.
Jake Mulligan - Boston Phoenix
With its melodramatic flourishes, simplistic black-and-white moralizing and general aura of studied manipulation, Won't Back Down is part of the problem rather than the solution.
Ethan Alter - Television Without Pity
It mixes attempts at realism and grit with transparently Hollywoodized good guys-vs.-bad guys social melodrama. That requires a deft directorial hand, but director Daniel Barnz doesn't seem to have it.
Inspiring tale of a mom's quest to better her kid's school.
Sandie Angulo Chen - Common Sense Media
Preachy yet persuasive, appealing to desperate, often outraged parents who are deeply concerned about the obvious failure of the American public school system.
Susan Granger - SSG Syndicate
All films should aspire to manipulating their audiences. [this film] does just that, but with no subtlety and little genuine conflict or tension.
Andrea Chase - Killer Movie Reviews
Won't Back Down supports the idea of privatizing some schools. The concept is controversial but provokes interesting discussion. Unfortunately, it's done in a very bad movie.
Gary Wolcott - Tri-City Herald
A marriage made in hell between bad politics and bad art.
Louis Proyect - rec.arts.movies.reviews
The question isn't how such a ham-fisted, cliched and, frankly, stupefyingly simple-minded film got made. The question is: How did it recruit such a talented cast into its union-bashing ranks?
Jeff Meyers - Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Well-done, well-meaning but predictable, by-the-familiar-numbers drama about two working single mothers who go activist to buck the public-school bureaucracy and create a better learning institution for their own and other urban kids.
Doris Toumarkine - Film Journal International
Social-issue movies can have real societal impact. That's why Won't Back Down, which presses a lot of hot buttons, deserves to be taken seriously, and criticized seriously, on its own terms.
Peter Rainer - Christian Science Monitor
Geez, I was born and raised in a union family, but by the middle of the story, I was ready to set fire to my union badge. Just a tad heavy-handed.
Jeanne Kaplan - Kaplan vs. Kaplan
It is wildly manipulative and totally predictable. Yet it is worth seeing on the big screen if for no other reason than it features the wonderful Viola Davis.
David Kaplan - Kaplan vs. Kaplan
Merely uncorks a box of Crayons and broadly colors over the issues at hand, doing a disservice to the parents, students, and teachers who struggle with this impasse on a daily basis.
Brian Orndorf - Blu-ray.com
Viola Davis could play Donald Trump in a movie and make it believable. She is clearly touched by a higher power. Right when the film was about to crash and burn in bad Lifetime movie territory, Viola popped up on-screen and saved the cinematic day.
Clay Cane - BET.com
Americans desperately need to have some difficult conversations about the state of public education, but Won't Back Down goes about the task too awkwardly to be helpful or interesting.
Connie Ogle - Miami Herald
"Won't Back Down" details a bureaucratic process, and yet it plays more like an intense, emotional movie about parents and children.
Mick LaSalle - San Francisco Chronicle
While the cast is filled with award winners, writer-director Daniel Barnz is a dunce who can't construct an argument without employing flimsy logic and cardboard characters.
Joe Williams - St. Louis Post-Dispatch
What should have been a rousing, feel-good, "inspired by a true story" film benefits from strong performances but suffers from a palpably skewed point of view.
Nell Minow - Beliefnet
It's the cast that rescues Won't Back Down from TV-movie-of-the-week-dom.
Sean O'Connell - CinemaBlend.com
These actors will, no doubt, survive to again give stellar performances - unless those dirty union bosses pull their SAG cards.
Sean Means - Salt Lake Tribune
an absolute fabricated work of fiction, hiding behind the label "Inspired by True Events"
Kevin Carr - 7M Pictures
... misses with its criticism of a wide-open target and is therefore is unlikely to inspire change.
Todd Jorgenson - Cinemalogue.com
Gyllenhaal and Davis are more than serviceable in their lead performances and appropriately never seem to be there just for the paycheck.
Christopher Campbell - Film School Rejects
[Davis] and Gyllenhaal cut through the spin and speechifying to carve out some affecting human moments.
Gary Thompson - Philadelphia Daily News
Warm and idealistic, it's a good attempt at dramatizing an enormous problem.
Chris Hewitt (St. Paul) - St. Paul Pioneer Press
The film casts the teachers' union in the role of the story's villain, an option that's far too simplistic and unfair.
Marjorie Baumgarten - Austin Chronicle
Powerful but predictable, this drama about two women out to reform a failing school acts as a narrative counterpart to the documentary Waiting for Superman.
Christopher Lloyd - Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Presents the troubled school system merely as a wall waiting to meet its destruction at the hands of motivated parents and fearless teachers.
Matt Pais - RedEye
In this era of Tea Party-fueled antipathy toward organized labor, the real villain is the teachers' union, which is more concerned with its members and their benefits.
Marshall Fine - Hollywood & Fine
The big moments work, the big scenes pay off and the big emotions are earned in this plucky movie about a couple of people realizing that they can make a difference.
Regularly devolves into a dry cinematic op-ed with thinly developed characters making didactic speeches articulating the issues involved in the knotty, emotionally charged subject of school choice.
Nathan Rabin - AV Club
A meat-and-potatoes movie, it's basic, dependable fare that's cooked well and goes down easy.
Robert Levin - amNewYork
You get exactly what you expect from it, but like the parents in the film, I wanted a lot more than just good enough.
Jeffrey Lyles - Lyles' Movie Files
It is made with passion and fire in the gut, and it is ultimately a moving experience the closer these ladies and their supporters get to realizing their dream. (Full Content Review for Parents also available)
Teddy Durgin - Screen It!
Takes on a serious topic, but fret not; the film is an absorbing, marvelously-acted piece of work that entertains without ever feeling like a school assignment itself.
The discussion of school reform is a worthy and necessary one, but the movie and its reductive, indefinite case are not offering much of value to it.
Mark Dujsik - Mark Reviews Movies
"Won't Back Down's" suggestions for improving K-12 education include having kids wish themselves into college using "The Secret." Yeah, that should do it.
Graham Killeen - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Broad and simplistic...the sort of earnest but pandering pabulum that might do more harm than good.
Frank Swietek - One Guy's Opinion
Though it's wonderfully acted, the film stacks the deck so badly that it fails as drama.
Moira MacDonald - Seattle Times
...the film is grounded by Viola Davis's sad, worn turn as a mother bearing a guilt we do not guess trying to remain dedicated to her profession in a school where few care anymore.
Laura Clifford - Reeling Reviews
The film is all for teaching as a calling. What it doesn't do is offer it the dignity of also being a job.
Alison Willmore - Movieline
This movie fears nuance, pushes an agenda and demonizes its opposition.
Rafer Guzman - Newsday
By skillfully navigating a minefield of political, social and moral issues involving the mostly broken American educational system, 'Won't Back Down' earns its happy ending
Kirk Honeycutt - honeycuttshollywood.com
One of its strengths is a knowledge of when to unfurl information, particularly for the strongest emotional effect.
R. Kurt Osenlund - Slant Magazine