Director: Steve Carr
Cast: Griffin Gluck, Lauren Graham, Rob Riggle, Thomas Barbusca, Andy Daly, Adam Pally
Runtime: 1 hr 31 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Opening Day: 6 October 2016
Synopsis: Rafe has an epic imagination...and a slight problem with authority. Both collide when he transfers to an oppressive, rule-crazy middle school. Drowning in do's and don'ts, Rafe and his scheming best friend Leo hatch a plan to break every rule in the school's Code of Conduct. It's Ferris Bueller meets Home Alone as their battle with Principal Dwight explodes into chaos both real and imagined. But Dwight displays his own fiendish creativity, striking back at the rulebreakers. Meanwhile, Rafe struggles to hide his misbehavior from Jeanne, the straight-A, overachieving girl of his dreams, and at home, his mother's boyfriend - a moochy, jack-of-no-trades named Bear - threatens to become his stepfather.
Based on a novel by James Patterson (yes the same Patterson who wrote the Alex Cross series) and Chris Tebbetts, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life is liked an unfunny, less meaningful version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid that you wished you had stayed at home and rewatched the latter on cable or DVD instead.
Targeted at the tween crowd, this Steve Carr (Paul Blart: Mall Cop) directed comedy stars Griffin Gluck as Rafe Khatchadorian, a gifted art student who has problems adjusting to his new school after his doodling book is destroyed by his Principal (Andrew Daly). In order to get back at his principal and his endless rules, Rafe and his buddy Leo (Thomas Barbusca) concocts plans to violate the school rules and that includes spraying graffiti and turning the trophy case into an aquarium. Extravagant pranks that you won’t expect ordinary boys to carry out. But hey this is just a movie.
But since this is also a flick about family and puppy love, there’s a self-centered, doofus named Carl (Rob Riggle), boyfriend of Rafe’s mum (Lauren Graham), witty sister Georgia (Alexa Nisenson) and the school’s tech girl and love interest, Jeanne (Isabela Moner) to keep the narrative going.
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life actually has lots more going than mere over-the-top pranks. It has all the potential to delve into the pressure of today’s academic expectation especially when you have Principal Dwight going ballistic over the school’s B.L.A.A.R. (Baseline Assessment of Academic Readiness) scores or emphasized on the cool teaching methods as demonstrated by teacher Teller (Adam Pally). Unfortunately, Steve Carr decides to dumb down the entire affair by constantly showing Andrew Daly’s character being pranked and Rob Riggle being an asshole. Seriously, not funny.
Although quite jarring to the overall tone, there’s an unexpected “sixth sense” like sad twist in the last act that actually bump up the score of the movie by a little. Pretty sure the crowd will be taken aback by this sudden moment of seriousness. The absolutely contagious animated hand-drawn sequences derived from Rafe’s imagination of course serves as the movie’s main highlight.
The movie fails to deliver messages on the onset of adolescence, bullying and the reason why Rafe chooses to constantly defy authority. It wastes so much time on the unfunny nonsensical pranks that there’s only a miserable portion of good stuff left in the end.
(Not the worst middle school comedy but definitely a forgettable one)
Review by Linus Tee