A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
If you remember those little clickers that the nuns used to use, you'll know why I liked the beginning of "Heaven Help Us" so much - and why I had such mixed feelings about the rest of it. The clickers were dime store crickets that made a nice, loud click, perfect for signaling a First Communion class so all the kids would stand up at the same time, and kneel at the same time, and start filing down the aisle together. In an opening scene of the movie, a kid has his own clicker, and uses it to sabotage the nun's signals, so that the whole class is bobbing like a yo-yo.
I thought that was funny, and I thought it set the tone for an affectionate, nostalgic, funny look back at Catholic school education in Brooklyn of the 1960s - sort of a cross between "Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?" and "Sister Mary Agnes Explains it All for You."
Unfortunately, what the movie turns into is more like a cross between "Stalag 17" and "Porky's," as sadistic teachers beat every, last glimmer of spirit out of students, and kids establish new indoor records in self-abuse.
Because "Heaven Help Us" does not have the slightest ambition to be a serious movie about Catholic high schools, I can't understand why the classroom scenes are so overplayed. As the sadistic teaching brother (Jay Patterson) slams his students against the blackboard, all we're really watching is a lapse in judgment by the moviemakers. The scenes are so ugly and depressing that they throw the rest of the movie out of balance.