Monday, November 14, 2016

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life elicits applause from kids and groans from parents

Grade:  C+

Rating:  PG, 92 minutes

In a Nutshell:   Based on the best-selling novel by James Patterson, these middle school kids “shred” all the rules and try to “stick it to the man.”  Yeah, kids will think that’s awesome, but parents might be alarmed by the message to rebel.  Some critics are calling this movie “harmless fun”, but some of these ideas aren’t so harmless. 

It definitely doesn’t have the same charm as Ferris Bueller's Day Off (one of my favorite movies), but there are a few laughable moments and you have to admire some of the creative pranks.

Uplifting theme: 
  • “You gotta do you.  That’s the most important thing.” – Mr. Teller (Adam Pally)
  • Honesty, family, friendship, being vulnerable, thinking for yourself.

Things I liked:
  • Middle school really is hard.  Everyone in the audience can relate.
  • There is some really cute animation mixed in.  It feels like you're reading one of James Patterson's books. 
  • Griffin Gluck is adorable in the movie as Rafe.
  • I always laugh when I see “Pedro” from Napoleon Dynamite in other movies.  My brother met him (Efren Ramirez) in a restaurant once.   Ha ha
  • Notice that the zombies do Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance routine.
  • Funny pug dog
  • Cute ending with a twist.
  • Dave & Busters….such a fun place!
  • Parks and Recreation: The Complete Series fans will get a kick out of seeing Retta.
  • There is a meaningful scene about a death in the family.

Things I didn’t like:
  • It’s ridiculously unrealistic.  For example, the kids break into the school every night to create chaos without fear of video surveillance, door codes, or security guards…because, apparently, none of those things exist at this school.  Your own kids might think they can pull off some of these pranks as easily and end up in juvenile court.
  • Kids love thinking they’re smarter than adults.  In the case of this movie, the kids ARE smarter.
  • Most of the characters were so over-the-top. 
  • I usually enjoy Lauren Graham in movies, but not so much in this one.  I didn’t respect her character, because she was so in love with “Bear” that she didn’t see what a jerk he was or how badly he was treating her children.  Mothers need to be more strong and smart than that.

Funny lines:
  • “Mom, she’s doing it again.” – Rafe
“She’s going to get me arrested.” – mom/Jules
“Hello!  Not getting younger here!” – Georgia
“Do that again and you’re not getting older either.” – mom/Jules
  • “Whoever did this is committed to their art.” – Pedro
  • “Have you seen this web site discussion?  It’s gone bacterial.” – Dwight
  • “If I’ve learned anything from “Call of Duty”, besides learning to curse in 30 languages…” – Leo
  • “Are you speaking words or did you just have a stroke?” – Georgia (Alexa Nisenson)
  • “What rhymes with suck?” – Leo           “Nothing good.” – Rafe

Interesting lines:
  • Opening up to people can get you hurt.” –  Leo (Thomas Barbusca)
  • “If we keep shoving a bunch of standardized tests down our kids’ throats, we’re going to end up with a bunch of standard kids.” – Mr. Teller (Adam Pally)

Terrible things said at the school:
  • “Teach to the test, not to the kids.” – Ida Stricker (Retta)
  • “Rules aren’t for everyone.”
  • “I will punish them in ways I haven’t even thought of yet.” – Dwight   (This was meant to be funny, but it’s not.)
  • Creativity has no place in this school.” – Dwight

Tips for parents:   

  • Your kids might learn some academic things.  For example, Rafe gives an entertaining presentation about the food cycle.
  • Pre-marital hanky panky and living together
  • Your kids may latch on to such phrases as “butt wipe” or “crap storm”.  If they’ve never heard of “Game of Thrones”, they may Google it and want to watch it.
  • Some profanity and sexuality.
  • There is a bully in Rafe’s class that could give you an opportunity to talk to your kids about bullying and how to handle it.
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