Live Action, Live Action, Reviews

[REVIEW] Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life Review

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Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life may seem like an odd film to review on an animation website but there is actually a fair amount of animation in the film so I thought I would share with you guys my thoughts.

If any of you have or know pre-teens, you are probably aware that not many films are made for that demographic. A lot is made for younger and a lot for older children but that middle grade level is tough to find in the cinema. So, in that way, Middle School is kind of a rare breed these days and while it could have been better it’s still an entertaining film in many ways.

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Middle School is based on the James Patterson best seller, and it is about a boy named Rafe who is forced to go to a new school after dealing with a family tragedy. Rafe is played by Griffin Gluck and I bet a lot in the Rotonation will be able to relate to him. He sketches and doodles sometimes through the night and is a kid that doesn’t like obeying rules – especially when they are stupid rules.

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That is where our main antagonist comes in, Principal Dwight played by Andy Daly. He has a whole book of rules that micromanage everything from a students’ wardrobe to what they touch and where they walk. At one point he even bans using the bathroom as a punishment to the kids.

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After Principal Dwight destroys Rafe’s sketchbook, Rafe and a friend decide to get back and pull a variety of outlandish pranks that are actually quite creative (if admittedly unrealistic but who really cares about that?). This upsets Principal Dwight, and he and Rafe spar off in a battle of wills.

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We also get really fun animated sequences throughout the film mostly showing Principal Dwight as some kind of zombie chasing Rafe. The animation really popped on the screen and I could have used even more of them. The music is also a lot of fun with modern hip-hop and classic rock songs like Twisted Sisters’ ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It.’

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Where the movie loses a ton of points is a subplot involving Rob Riggle as Rafe’s mom’s fiance. He is animated as a bear and he really is such a jerk. The problem is we already have an antagonist. We don’t need another. If you think of classic teen comedies, like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Better Off Dead, the parents are kind of background characters. The main antagonist, like Edward Rooney and Roy Stalin, are allowed to shine. I never liked Rob Riggle, and every time he was on screen I was annoyed.

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It also could have been funnier. For example, nothing made me laugh in this film as much as the DMV scene in Disney’s recent Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day. There were a lot of kids and pre-teens in my audience and there were long patches were nobody was laughing, which is a problem.

However, on the plus side there was more heart than I expected. With Rafe and his family dealing with a recent loss, there were some emotional scenes and the cast pulls them off well. I even got a little teary-eyed in a moment between Rafe and his sister Georgia.

I think the target demographic will really enjoy Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life. I fully expect critics to focus on the weaknesses, which are there, but for who it is made for I think it does a pretty good job. I don’t know if you have to see it in the theater but keep an eye out for it on cable. It’s at least worth seeing for the cool animated sequences!

★★★

If you see Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, what do you think and have you read the book? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Edited by: Kajsa Rain Forden

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About Rachel Wagner

Rachel has loved animation since she was a little girl singing songs from The Little Mermaid at the top of her lungs. She currently works in social media marketing and loves to blog and vlog about Disney, Pixar and all kinds of movies in her free time. Her favorite movie is Up and she considers herself quite the Cinderella aficionado seeing every version she can get her hands on. She also loves animated TV shows like Simpsons, Gravity Falls, Star Wars Rebels and more. Follow her on twitter @smilingldsgirl

  • I read the first book (there’s maybe four or five in the series) an eternity ago and found it a strange choice for a movie, but i’m happy to hear a lot of the animation carried over and that it doesn’t seem too godawful.

  • Phin68

    I recall watching the trailer in front of Kubo. Reminded me a ton of Max Keeble’s Big Move: a childhood guilty-pleasure for me. Maybe I’ll check this out when goes on DVD or digital.

    By the way, was the animation in the movie hand-drawn or flash? I’ve noticed a good number of modern movies putting bits of hand-drawn animation into them (i.e. Sausage Party, Moana, Peanuts) and was curious whether this was one of them.

    • Rachel Wagner

      I think it was hand drawn (definitely 2D)

    • The trailer spoiled the entire movie, although this plot has been done countless times before. I’m just gonna see The Girl on the Train on October 7th instead.

      • Rachel Wagner

        Hmmm. I didn’t see it that way. It’s not really a film with a big twist or something to be spoiled I feel

        • Middle School has a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is a lot higher than I expected, considering that it’s from the director Mall Cop. Anyway, I never had interest in this movie since I never read the book and since I’m in High School now. These type of movies aren’t really appealing to me. BTW, I ended up not seeing The Girl on the Train do to poor reviews. I saw The Accountant movie instead.

          • Rachel Wagner

            Yeah it isn’t made for all demographics but I kind of appreciate that. I get tired of one size fits all movies. It’s not a masterpiece by any means but I enjoyed it

  • Anonymous

    The title makes me think of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies.

    • Rachel Wagner

      Yeah I haven’t seen any of those movies but I’ve heard from other people they are similar

  • Allen

    Happy to hear the film isn’t too bad. I’ve read the book series the movie is based on and really enjoyed them. I’m glad that the movie has heart as the trailers make it look like a comedy as opposed to a comedy-drama.

    • Rachel Wagner

      You’ll have to let me know what you think if you get to see it being a fan of the book. I bet it is a charming book series.