Blu-ray Review: ‘Middle School: The Worst Years Of My Life’

Review by Lauryn Angel

I don’t have children, so I missed the news that James Patterson had co-written a book aimed at middle schoolers. That book is the basis for Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life. While the movie is aimed at children the age of the protagonist, Rafe (Griffin Gluck), it actually has some good points about the state of education.

Rafe is a troubled kid. When the movie starts, we don’t know exactly what the problem is, but his mother, Jules (Lauren Graham) is at her wits’ end, begging Rafe to make things work at his new school, because it’s the last that would take him. Rafe hides from his problems by sketching in his notebook. He has created another world and inhabited it with a slew of characters who jump off the pages in this film as animated characters. On his first day of school, Rafe is excited to see that his best friend Leo (Thomas Barbusca) has been sentenced to the same school, and it’s not long before he makes an enemy of the school bully, Miller (Jacob Hopkins) and has a run-in with Principal Dwight (Andrew Daly), who is obsessed with rules and standardized test scores. In order to make life at school bearable – both for himself and his classmates – Rafe sets out to break every creativity-stifling rule in Principal Dwight’s rulebook.

I’m hardly the target audience for this film, but I will admit that I got more than a few giggles from Rafe and Leo’s antics. The side plot of the war between little sister Georgia (Alexa Nisenson) and future step-dad Carl (Rob Riggle) might have been even more entertaining. Perhaps my favorite character, though, is Mr. Teller (Adam Pally), the teacher who sees the value in fostering creativity and learning over standardized test scores and is willing to risk his own job because he believes so strongly in learning over memorizing.

While the movie is fun, there’s nothing particularly revolutionary about the story. We’ve seen kids playing pranks on the school principal and kids playing pranks on their parent’s significant other. Even the poignant plot twist isn’t anything new. The underlying message of standing up to bullies of all types – Miller, Principal Dwight, Carl – is what really makes the movie worth watching.

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