Chicago Sun-Times

By Roger Ebert
After seeing Awakenings, I read it, to know more about what happened in that Bronx hospital. What both the movie and the book convey is the immense courage of the patients and the profound experience of their doctors, as in a small way they reexperienced what it means to be born, to open your eyes and discover to your astonishment that "you" are alive.
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Wall Street Journal

By Julie Salamon
The director Penny Marshall has gone straight to the heart of this complex story and made a powerfully poignant and illuminating film. She doesn't hesitate to push for the grand sentimental moment, but balances the teary stuff with restraint and humor. To be sure, Awakenings seems calculated to induce weeping -- and it does, without making the weeper feel cheap. [20 Dec 1990, p.A14]
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The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

By Jay Scott
Marshall elicits performances from Williams and De Niro that are exceptional. Awakenings is a small, simple movie about a large, complex issue, the waste of human opportunity. [19 Dec 1990, p.C1]
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San Francisco Chronicle

Awakenings is a troubling film, but it's also a courageous one that dares to tackle a difficult subject with sensitivity and honesty. [20 Dec 1990, p.E1]
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Boston Globe

By Jay Carr
Director Penny Marshall's choreography encompasses emotional as well as physical ebbs and flows. Awakenings lives up to its title. [11 Jan 1991]
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Entertainment Weekly

By Owen Gleiberman
And so even if you're held (as I was) by the acting, you may find yourself fighting the film's design. It reflects a certain lack of faith in your audience to take a performance as authentic as De Niro's and reduce it to the level of a glorified reach-out-and-touch-someone commercial.
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TV Guide

The script pushes all the expected buttons at all the expected moments, leaving you wondering what could have been achieved with a more rigorous, unsentimental approach.
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Plucks at the heart-strings in a far too push-button way.
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Chicago Tribune

By Dave Kehr
Awakenings is a film that unquestionably succeeds on its own terms, though those terms are deeply suspect. It is a canny piece of false art, one that consistently swaps meaning for superficial effect. [20 Dec 1990, p.1]
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USA Today

By Mike Clark
De Niro's widely praised performance is like the rest of the film: competent, a product of hard work and borderline mechanical. I like much of Awakenings, including several supporting performances - but like Big, it left me just a little cold. [20 Dec 1990, p.5D]
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74 out of 100
Generally favorable reviews
Metascore® based on all critic reviews. Scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.