Friday, July 21, 2017

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life: Predictable Teen Fare with an Unpredictable Ending

Movie Review: Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life (2016)
Version: Library borrow

James Patterson used to write mysteries. Now he also writes kids books. And one of them turned into a movie called Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life.

Like The Wimpy Kid series, the Middle School series features the daily foibles of being a teen in the middle school or junior high school years of life. The young teens are the stars, with the main characters as the lovable, likable average American kids just trying to make it through the rough years of school, targeted by bullies, nervous at encounters with the opposite sex, and embarrassed by dorky parents. So it is in this film, in which Rafe (played by Griffin Gluck) and his best friend Leo (played by Thomas Barbusca) end up in the misfits class, his parent's last hope to find an educational home for their troubled son. The evil principal and his assistant principal are sticklers for rules -- there are something like 130 of them -- and every encounter Rafe has with them is because of a rules violation. Rafe is also a doodler who keeps a journal of sketches detailing his daily happenings in life, including his encounters with Principal Dwight (played by Andy Daly), and when the principal finds it he throws it into a bucket of acid, destroying Rafe's lifetime of creative effort. In retaliation, Rafe and his best bud Leo decide to defiantly break every rule in Principal Dwight's book. And so, mayhem breaks out, one broken rule at a time, making Dwight's life a misery and boosting Rafe's chops among his classmates. Rafe's mother is a single mom who has attracted an annoying suitor (played by Rob Riggle), who will do anything to get rid of Rafe and his sister Georgia (played by Alexa Nizenson), and a plot arises to send Rafe to military school, when Principal Dwight discovers who's behind all the rules breaking. But all is not what it seems as the kids get the best of the adults.

The kids are all adorable in this formula teen film, the adults are predictable, and the story line is mildly entertaining, but there's a surprise at the end, and the doodles in Rafe's journal occasionally come to life as animated characters, which adds an interesting dimension to the storytelling.

While I had fun watching this with my daughter, I'm not sure I would have chosen it over other films. Maybe if you have teens looking for something to keep them entertained on a rainy day this would be great for them. If you're an adult, you might find it mildly entertaining, too.

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