Oh man, did I need a break from talking about bleak stuff.
Okay, so MIDDLE SCHOOL is based on a kids book, and I won’t lie, I’m totally reminded of the Diary of a Whimpy Kid films. Don’t they look eerily similar? Except maybe this one is a bit more cartoony? Well, give this movie credit that it at least looks like it’s meant to be exaggerated, whereas the cartoon sketches in the Diary films are just there to remind fans that it’s adapted from the books. But seriously, look at this. Kids driving cars with no consequences, a school with the most over-the-top rules that no school outside of a prison (funny enough, commented like such in the trailer) would have. What is this movie?
The film stars Griffin Gluck. Primarily a TV actor who’s been in shows like LIFE IN PIECES, ABOUT A BOY, and RED BAND SOCIETY, as well as some TV movies, he’s no stranger to the big screen. But is more prominent role is probably 2011’s JUST GO WITH IT. This movie looks to be his first starring role, so big congrats. Co-starring is Lauren Graham. A popular actress in television having been in the ever popular GILMORE GIRLS and PARENTHOOD, but has been in quite a few films as well, such as BAD SANTA (2003), MAX (2015), and EVAN ALMIGHTY (2007). Andrew Daly, from TV shows MODERN FAMILY, ADVENTURE TIME, and EASTBOUND & DOWN. Finally, Rob Riggle, from 21 JUMP STREET (2012), and TV shows NEW GIRL and WILFRED.
Now behind the scenes. Directing, we have Steve Carr, who’s done MOVIE 43 (2012), PAUL BLART: MALL COP (2009), and DADDY DAY CARE (2003). Penning the script is Kara Holden, Chris Bowman, and Hubbel Palmer. Holden hasn’t done much writing and nothing well renowned, but Bowman and Palmer wrote last week’s MASTERMINDS (2016). You can read that review and see what else they’ve done. Composing the music is Jeff Cardoni, who’s done MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES (2016), and TV shows SILICONE VALLEY and THE GRINDER. Finally, the cinematographer is Julio Macat, who’s worked on THE BOSS (2016), HOME ALONE (1990), and PITCH PERFECT (2012).
Yeah, I’m not going in with high expectations. My biggest hope is that it’s at least a tad creative with a serviceable performance from Graham. I’m not leaping for joy at the cast, certainly not behind the scenes, I’m definitely not looking forward to this, despite RottenTomatoes giving it a 62% and IMDb’s 6.4/10 (both as of 10/7/2016). This is my honest opinion of MIDDLE SCHOOL: THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE.
Talented artist, Rafe Khatchadorian (Griffin Gluck) has had a hard couple years, trying to recover from a personal tragedy. It has resulted in him acting out, and he’s been kicked out of too many schools. He’s down to his last one. However, the new school is closer to a prison with the most ridiculous rules imaginable. Thank goodness that he meets up with his equal trouble-making best friend (albeit a little more prideful of the fact), Leo (Thomas Barbusca). But when Rafe’s sketchbook is discovered by the dastardly Principal Dwight (Andrew Daly), and destroyed, Rafe and Leo have had enough of the man’s sainted rules and decide to fight against his system to inspire change.
While I hesitate to say that the movie is good, because a lot of the movie relies on Nickelodeon humor, there are some surprisingly well-written, even adult, moments.
When I say “Nickelodeon” humor, you might figure out what I mean by that. The antics pulled off by Rafe are so beyond the realm of possibility that it feels like this should have been a cartoon. I mean, paint in the sprinkler system, reprogramming the bell to sound like a fart, it gets pretty out there in terms of believability. Which is odd to say because the first stunt pulled it actually quite inventive: the sticky note fiasco. I mean, there’s obviously no way on Earth that this could be pulled off in a matter of a few hours, covering the Principal’s entire office, completely covering two or three hallways in the school, it’s obviously not possible, but the visual set-up is still pretty funny and creative to look at, especially when you see a sticky note portrait of VP Stricker (Retta). But none of the other pranks felt that creative.
The main problem is that this won’t
The cardinal sin of the movie: Bear (Rob Riggle), Jules’ new boyfriend who is closer to a child than the actual kids are. Never mind the fact that he is beyond unfunny in this, but his role is absolutely pointless. He’s the second plot of the movie. Notice in my summary that I only mentioned the plot of Rafe fighting his school’s system. That’s because that’s the plot you’d expect from a title called “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life.” You’re not thinking to yourself, “Oh, this is about a kid who has to deal with his mom’s jerk of a boyfriend.” The main story is fine on its own. You take Bear out of the movie and you get exactly what this movie suggests. Put him in it, it’s another movie entirely and instantly loses focus. This would be a fine story to put in a sequel, maybe, but not here.
To top it all off, it’s predictable. The moment this character shows up, you know exactly how it’s going to end. He’s a fine gentleman around Jules, but he’s a rotten person around the kids and everyone else. Thing is, he’s still obnoxious even around Jules. So the guy is helpful. Does that mean you have to date him, or consider marriage? Has she even thought about what the kids think if him?!
Speaking of which, why don’t they speak out against him?! I don’t recall this tactic ever used in the movie. Am I wrong?
Well… for all the ironic lack of “thinking out of the box” humor that is loaded in this movie, I can’t deny that there are a couple of saving graces.
First of all, there are some pretty funny lines.
Er… what else rhymes with [luck]?
(I don’t remember the actual word he used)
Obviously, some context is missing for you readers, but that joke was funny to me. There’s also some genuinely heartwarming moments too. So Bear wants to get rid of Rafe and send him to military school. Georgia (Alexa Nisenson), Rafe’s younger sister, overhears Bear and Jules talking about it. Rafe comes home through his bedroom window in the middle of the night and she starts crying to him about how the situation doesn’t look good. Crying that she knows she “talks a big game,” but she’s terrified of living with Bear all alone. So Rafe makes a promise to be on better behavior for her sake. Despite this scene not having very little impact in the rest of the movie, this was a legit scene. This was pure sibling bonding, right down to ending the scene with the two of them trading playful insults. Probably one of the best scenes in the entire movie.
But now… it’s time to talk about the best moment in the movie.
The twist. Yeah, there’s a twist in here and I genuinely didn’t see it coming. Rafe’s best friend Leo is also his brother. The same brother that died prior to the story. This is blew my mind. This kids movie really went in that direction with this. I mean, never mind the technicals, how no one truly reacted to Leo when he was around, but this story actually tackles the subject of grief when dealing with the loss of family at that age. It’s handled surprisingly well. Especially at the end, how Rafe deals with finally letting Leo go… man, that hits. While I wish the rest of the movie was this well-written, it’s still a welcomed change in a lot of live-action kids movies.
It’s not hard to see someone not liking this movie. It truly is like watching a ninety minute episode of a kid’s TV show and it won’t be for everybody. But I’ve seen a few too many opinions expressed online that this is the worst movie they’d ever seen. If that’s true, then clearly they haven’t seen many movies… hell, this year alone had some of the worst movies that had me apologizing to JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS (2015). But… I don’t hate it. Some of the visual gags were fun, some dialog was pretty funny, and those heavier moments are impressively well-executed. Does it make up for the painfully obvious subplots, and over-the-top set-up? Of course not. But it’s harmless. There’s worse movies to show your kids. In the end, I’m still recommending it… er, a soft recommendation.
My honest rating for MIDDLE SCHOOL: THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE: 3/5
And that’s all she wrote, dear readers. But this year is far from over. Halloween’s around the corner, and I’m catching up on some horror movies and classics to celebrate. My weekly picks to check out for the month:
- HOUSE OF THE DEAD (it’s my favorite bad movie of all time)
- RESIDENT EVIL: DAMNATION
I’ll be slapping out some other recommendations in the coming weeks, so let’s get to enjoying the start of the holidays!
Upcoming films 10/13/2016 – 10/20/2016
- MAX STEEL
- THE ACCOUNTANT
Upcoming films 10/20/2016 – 10/27/2016
- JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK
- OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL
- KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES
- TYLER PERRYS BOO! A MADEA HALLOWEEN