“Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” stars Griffin Gluck, Lauren Graham, Rob Riggle, Thomas Barbusca, Andy Daly, and Adam Pally. Released on October 7, 2016, the film is about a middle school student who sets out to break every rule made by his strict principal.
The film is directed by Steve Carr, who also directed films such as Next Friday, Daddy Day Care, Rebound, and Paul Blart: Mall Cop. It is based on the 2011 novel of the same name by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts. Like all of you readers out there, my experience with middle school wasn’t that very special. High school and college, on the other hand, were a bit better despite some problems. That’s probably the reason why I wanted to see this film, because it somehow reminded me of my life experiences while being in middle school. From the looks of the marketing, I thought it was going to be just an average family comedy that’ll get the kids and their parents laughing. After watching it for myself, I was right, but it did offer a bit more than just silly laughs.
The performances in the film range from average to good. Some of the young actors do seem to have fun with their roles, such as Gluck as Rafe Khatchadorian (What kind of a last name is that?), Barbusca as Rafe’s best friend Leo, and Nickelodeon actress Isabela Moner as Jeanne. There were some other performances that felt a bit too silly, like Andy Daly as the strict principal of Rafe’s middle school and Riggle as the jerky boyfriend to Rafe’s mom. As far as I can tell, based on what I saw, I could not imagine a different actor playing that type of character. I thought Riggle filled that role perfectly, even though he tried a bit too hard to deliver some big laughs. Another thing that is expected in the film was the animated sequences that involve Rafe’s drawings. Every now and then, you’ll see his creativity and his thoughts come to life in animation form, and the style the filmmakers created was pretty cool. It’s nothing that special, but it definitely reflects on how people imagine stuff when they draw, and they did a nice job at doing that. The first half of the film is what you expect from the marketing, which involves the main character breaking the school rules that are made by the principal. I was a bit concerned that it’s going to be like that throughout the film, along with some silly humor thrown in there, but as it progresses towards the second half, I was surprised at how touching and unexpected some moments are. Sure, the story arc felt like it should’ve been a television film made for Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, but the way they incorporate some decent messages and a couple of heartwarming moments into an average comedic plot was surprisingly fitting. I also felt that the pacing is a bit slow at some scenes, but it’s never boring from start to finish.
Mom: When I begged Marcus to take me to see “Middle School”, I thought I was going to a show and have some laughs at some of the “trouble” that kids get into during their school years. I got some smiles and giggles, but I got more than that. Yes, I know that I will find something to tear up at no matter what the movie, but the “life” scenes and how they handled some of those moments took me by surprise. This movie really does a good job at hitting a lot of, if not all of, the emotions that I believe we all go through during our teenage years no matter what the circumstances. It takes you for a roller coaster ride, with some dips and turns and slow moments, but then I believe they tied it nicely into a bow. I will watch it again when it comes to TV.
Overall, “Middle School” has its ups and downs, like real middle school, but director Steve Carr manages to know its ups and downs and mainly focuses on the ups. The plot has plenty of average comedic tropes, but its heartfelt moments and themes are enough to get through its worst years of its life. Was it a perfect family film? Not really. Does it do what it’s set out to do? Yeah, it does. I think people who either went through middle school or are still in middle school are going to relate to this film despite its flaws. I also think the kids are going to like it because of the animation sequences and the humor. For everyone else who wanted a feel-good film, I would say it’s worth a watch.