Hot Take: If I needed proof you can only be young once, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life would definitely provide it. My 13 year old self would have loved it. My 40 year old self? Nope.
I get it. Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life did not target me as their audience. If this were 25-30 years ago, I would have been all about this movie. Unfortunately, my outlook on life has changed slightly over the past few decades and a movie I probably would have loved around the time I was entering my teenage years was now not all that entertaining. Having gone back and watched some movies I’ve watched and loved as a kid, it’s unsurprising to feel this way, either. I didn’t have the most cultured tastes of movies as a kid (not that they’ve gotten much better as an adult, right?).
So much doesn’t work in Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life that it’s hard to suspend disbelief. Early on when our main character Rafe (Griffin Glick) decides to go after the rulebook of his new school, he covers the entire school in Post-Its. (This really isn’t a spoiler as it’s in the trailer.) When you see his handiwork, hopefully you’ll ask the same question I did, “How the hell did he accomplish this in one night?” The movie sets up Rafe’s character with a nice alibi as he can’t sleep (I guess, ever!) because he is still grieving over the loss of his brother. To keep the movie’s tone higher, they gloss over the death of his brother until it’s absolutely necessary to talk about it which is a very kid’s movie touch, by the way.
Most of the characters in the film grate on your nerves at some point. There’s Principal Dwight (Andrew Daly) who gives the movie a Saved By the Bell feel with his cheap, knock-off impersonation of a movie version of Mr. Belding. Or is it the guy from Glee he’s trying to be? There’s assistant principal Ida Stricker (Retta) who inexplicably has some sort of crush on Principal Dwight. The overrated Rob Riggle appears as Rafe’s mom’s fiancée who, of course, is a big jerk whenever mom isn’t around. Mom (Lauren Graham) is that too cool single mom trying to hold it all together. Georgia (Alexa Nisenon) is Rafe’s sister and guess what? She’s annoying but she’s Rafe’s sister so eventually they’ll figure out a way to work together because, well, that’s how these movies work.
Isabela Moner is the lone bright spot of the movie as Jeannie Galleta, the nerdy (because she wears glasses and likes the environment and causes and stuff) girl Rafe has a crush on. Maybe they’ll cast her in the Rachel Leigh Cook role in the eventual She’s All That reboot. Since it looks like we’re destined for 99.9% of all movies being rebooted, remade or producing a sequel, it’s inevitable, right?
Unless you’re in middle school, it might be best to pass on Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life. If you have middle school-aged children dying to see it, you might want to sneak off into another movie while they enjoy and pop in from time to time to check on them. It might be bad parenting but it’s a better way to spend 92 minutes than struggling through this uninspired adolescent comedy-drama.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- The Animation
Rafe is an artist and we often get to spend time in his imagination with his drawings. It’s similar to John Cusack in One Crazy Summer but more elaborate. I was 10 when One Crazy Summer came out, by the way, and I loved it. I’ve seen it since and, well, not so much.
- How Can You Go Wrong With A Dance Number?
My high school never once broke out into dance. Not once. I went to the wrong high school.
- … And a Chubby Dog?
Mr. Calvin Giggles is his name, apparently.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Adam Pally
Pally plays the “cool teacher” who isn’t all about standardized tests and using Wu-Tang Clan and Drake and Future to get his lessons across. Sorry but didn’t Boy Meets World already do this? Pally is a good actor who deserved better than this part.
- Rob Riggle
This guy can go at any point.
- Standardized Testing Trauma
How many movies are we going to have that center around standardized tests in high school?