Case Number 16774: Small Claims Court


Docurama // 2009 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // July 9th, 2009

The Charge

Getting in is no longer child's play.

The Case

In Manhattan, hundreds of parents are struggling with one thing and one thing only: the terrifying preschool application process. Believe it or not, but it's a nasty war out there, and while the children pretty much have no clue what's going on, their parents devote an incredible amount of time and patience trying to get their loved ones into the best nursery school in town. With around twenty applicants for each spot, this mission is anything but easy.

Marc H. Simon's and Matthew Makar's fascinating little documentary, Nursery University, offers viewers an astounding look at how complicated the application process really is, and what parents are willing to do to get their kids into a school that will cost them tens of thousands of dollars. The film follows five Manhattan families as they gear up for a year of completing challenging application forms, visiting expensive consultants, attending tough interviews, and hoping they'll make the cut.

Incredibly entertaining and informative, Nursery University is a film appealing to both parents who plan on jumping into the crazy world of Manhattan's private schools and people who think this phenomenon comes close to being plain ridiculous. Stuffed with a lot of delicious humor, the film includes plenty of surprising interviews with determined parents and school officials, who all have compelling tales to tell. When the race for the few open spots begins, tears are shed and hysteria ensues, and it's all captured on film.

Applying for a spot at one of these elite preschools is a lengthy process, and you wouldn't believe the ways parents go about it. While some make sure their toddlers know the alphabet inside out, others fill in the applications forms with the help of a thesaurus. The level of stress skyrockets once the school's yearly process begins, and as soon as the phone lines open, the parents are glued to their phones, showing up at the schools in person, and devoting each and every minute of their lives to getting their kid into a school they believe is the road to Harvard.

The irony in all this is that most of the time, it doesn't even matter how sophisticated the answers on the applications sound or how well the children are prepared for the pre-admission interviews. As several school officials point out, the high number of applicants actually forces them to give away spots via lotteries. Nursery University captures both the parents' ordeal and the school's process of accepting children very well, and watching all this insanity unfold is highly amusing and even at times quite shocking.

Nursery University boasts a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, and the image quality is overall quite solid. The audio transfer has its flaws, as big parts of the dialogue are pretty hard to understand unless you really bump up the volume. Sadly enough, the disc does not include any subtitles, which makes it a tad harder to clearly understand some of the dialogue in the film.

Besides a trailer, some filmmaker bios, and 16 minutes worth of interesting deleted scenes, the bonus section on this DVD includes two Q&A sessions with the directors at two film festivals. The special features also boast "Tips from the Experts," a 15-minute discussion with school officials who offer viewers additional information about the preschool application process.

No matter what your plans are for your toddlers, Nursery University is required viewing. Makar and Simon have created a highly entertaining and instructive little film that reveals a madness I'm sure many of us didn't know existed. After seeing this, you may want to think twice about what school you'll want to put your kids in -- and do it early.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2009 Franck Tabouring; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 93

Perp Profile
Studio: Docurama
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurettes
* Filmmaker Bios
* Trailer

* IMDb