By Kirven Blount
Updated April 13, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

In Freedom Writers, Hilary Swank plays real-life teacher Erin Gruwell — who inspired L.A. kids in the face of racial turmoil — as an innovative idealist whose only fault is unstinting dedication. As for the young charges: Writers‘ ”dumb class” stands out amid the one-dimensional adults deciding their fates; the kids’ quiet performances (notably Jason Finn’s) provide the surprises the script lacks. B-