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"Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life" (2016) Film Review

Steven Escareno is an amateur film critic who writes about movies in his spare time.

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"Middle School" Film Adaptation

Based on the popular kid's book of the same name, the 2016 film Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life depicts the story of a young boy named Rafe Katchadorian (Griffin Gluck), as he prepares to go to his new school for the year, since he's been kicked out of a lot of schools for misbehavior.

Rafe is something of an artist, who doodles in his notebook constantly throughout the story. As he doodles, the drawings tend to take on a life of their own. Not literally to where all the characters can see them, but mostly in his own mind. The film gives us colorful animated moments to see those images come to life, which kind of makes him something of a kid version of John Cusack's character in "One Crazy Summer."

Anyways, Rafe is frustrated by his new school, as he has to put up with a stereotypical bully, and a Principal who seems to care more about rules when it comes to maintaining his own self-interests than the students themselves. And of course, he also has to deal with his mom's overbearing boyfriend, who wants to send Rafe off to military school to get rid of him.

Like most movies of this ilk, you already know what's going to happen because it's one of that generic cliche by-the-numbers kid films. Nothing great, but you hope that the humor is funny at least, to make it enjoyable. However, to be fair, it's entertaining if you're into the same type of humor that you'd find in a live-action Disney Channel show like Jessie, Wizards of Waverly Place, etc.

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Overall Review

The acting isn't bad, but it's not great either. If you've ever seen a live-action Disney channel show based on young kids (i.e., The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, etc.), then you'll pretty much know that most of the actors tend to overact for comedic effect. It's not a bad thing per se if that's the audience you are gearing your film towards, but it's not particularly memorable either because it doesn't do much to differentiate itself from the generic crap we've seen before.

The characters are poorly written for the most part, as most of them are generic stereotypes with little to no personality apart from Rafe himself. You have the sympathetic mother, who's practically a saint that wants nothing but the best for her kids. You have a sweet little smart a** of a sister who's the brains between them. You have the "cool guy" teacher, who teaches free thinking in a school hellbent on rules and regulations. And of course, you have a stepfather, who's essentially a prick that hates kids... Seriously, do screenwriters just think that all step-parents are a**holes?

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However, after Rafe's sketchbook is destroyed by the principal, he becomes hellbent on destroying every rule to get back at him. From here, this is where the story begins. Oh, it's also revealed later on that his best friend happens to be the ghost of his little brother that he pretends still exists; after he died, as it's used as sort of an excuse for his previous misbehavior in the past. However, it's not worked particularly well, as it's barely even referenced to, and it's a bit awkward because that would essentially mean that the girl he likes saw him talking to himself, yet she somehow finds this sweet and adoring? I'm sorry, but most girls that I know that see a guy talking to himself would normally think he was crazy. However, it's a kid's film, so I guess logic goes out the window in these types of stories.

While I'm not going to say that Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life flat out sucks, I will say that it feels like one of those features that probably would've been better served going straight to DVD, or premiering on the Disney Channel, because it's too generic and safe to be taken seriously as a theatrical release.

Definitely worth watching on DVD if you're into the type of humor and storytelling that you'll find in live-action TV shows on Nickelodeon or Disney these days. However, I wouldn't pay to see it in a theater though.

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Stevennix2001's Rating

6 / 10

Pros:

  • The acting was decent. Granted, you can tell the cast overacts quite a bit, but it suits the narrative of the story, so it's forgivable for the most part.
  • Humor was funny if you're into the type of comedy that you'll find in live-action TV shows on Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel.
  • Animation sequences throughout the film are well done. Definitely fit within the narrative of the story to highlight Rafe's overactive imagination.

Cons:

  • Story is too generic and cliche that it's kind of forgettable after you see it.
  • Most of the characters aren't written well, as they tend to be mostly stereotyped.
  • The subplot about the dead brother being Rafe's best friend isn't worked into the story very well.
  • And since Rafe's crush sees him talking to his brother on camera, who isn't really there, you'd think that would be enough to make her NOT want to be attracted to him, but nope. She apparently has a thing for artistic crazy people that talk to themselves. Kind of unrealistic, but eh. What do you expect from a generic family comedy like this?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 Stevennix2001

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