Derbez portrays Sergio Juarez, the central teacher from Radical who, in an unexpected move, asks to be transferred to Jose Urbina Lopez Elementary in Matamoros. Daniel Haddad, the principal of the school, also known as "Director" in the Spanish-speaking institution, cannot believe what he is hearing. Sergio is certain he can instil a love of learning in his kids rather than having them concentrate on a standardised test that only half of the class has yet to complete at Jose Urbina Lopez, a school where computers have never been installed and the library hardly even has books.

Derbez is no stranger to tales involving inspirational professors because he most recently had a significant supporting part in CODA, the oscar winner from the previous year. But this time, he is in charge of the cast without having anyone to play off for comic effect, and he must captivate an English-speaking public that is resistant to subtitles in Spanish. As could be anticipated of a superstar with four decades of expertise in the Mexican film industry, he completes the duty with grace and ease. Because he never descends to condescending and always gives the younger performers a chance to shine, his classroom scenes endear him to the pupils and viewers alike.

Each of these children's tales must balance on a fine line between demonstrating how Sergio's intrusion into their life is a benefit rather than a burden and defending their refusal to pursue school. This is Radical's most difficult task to complete, and it is also the section when it most frequently falls victim to feel-good after-school special clichés. The fact that the events in the film are based on a genuine tale (as well as Joshua Davis' WIRED piece) helps christopher Zalla's steady script and directing avoid wallowing for too long in its own depressing conditions.

As Radical's running time decreases, tragedy and triumph go hand in hand, albeit perhaps the movie doesn't linger on either for long enough towards its end. Derbez's compassionate characterization and his poignant interactions with each student are the story's greatest strengths, demonstrating Sergio's skill at igniting a true enthusiasm for learning by appealing to a child's individual interests. And even though the film's climax may disappoint after such a delicate build-up, thinking about Sergio and his students still makes one feel protective and proud of them.

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