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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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