Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life – 2 out of 5
I wouldn’t say that my middle school years were the worst years of my life—high school was far worse. To be honest, I don’t remember much from those days because they feel like so long ago and this movie didn’t really do much to awaken me to those memories. However, that really wasn’t the film’s intention, I think. Anyway, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life may be a kid’s film but the trailer for it did make my chuckle and it has Andy Daly in it. Since I love that guy and the since the trailer did make me giggle, I decided to check it out. Sadly, it really wasn’t as fun as I hoped it would have been.
|That room is the teacher's lounge. Just imagine the number of balls required to|
fill that room. Are you imagining it? No? Okay, never mind then.
|Meet Rafe, a wacky kid who likes to draw...|
(Read that in a cheesy 80s movie trailer
Based on the 2011 novel of the same name, this movie focuses on Rafe (Griffin Gluck), a creative boy with a love of drawing that seems to dominate most of his focus, sometimes with negative results. After being kicked out of his last school, Rafe finds himself at the Hills Village Middle School with his best friend Leo (Thomas Barbusca). There he meets Principal Dwight (Andy Daly); an overbearing authority figure who runs the school with an insane amount of rules and with an iron fist. To make matters worse, his mother (Lauren Graham) is seeing a jerky boyfriend (Rob Riggle) who constantly disrespects him. After Principal Dwight destroys Rafe’s sketch book, he and Leo decide that they are systematically going to prank the principal and break every single one of his obnoxious rules.
|I'm just going to say it, Andy Daly is a damn treasure!|
|Riggle is in this?!? Sign me up!|
Like I said, the trailer for this one was pretty amusing to me and I figured that this one might be one of those fun kid’s features. Indeed I will admit that there are some very amusing moments and, for me, they were mostly delivered by Andy Daly, Rob Riggle and Adam Pally as Rafe’s teacher. To be honest, the humor wasn’t really the bad part about the film because even the gags that are meant to appeal to people more than half my age were never outright awful (although they would get bad whenever the writer tried to sound young and ended up making the kids talk like how adults think kids talk). The only thing that really kept me from being invested in the film and engaged in the story was some uneven writing and a plot that felt a tad unfocused.
|This kid Barbusca seems to get a lot of work...and that's because he's pretty|
talented and funny.
|Look, this is the paragraph where I'm talking about the|
bad things this movie has but I'm still giving it a
thumbs up for the good things it did. Like this
boy in this screencap.
To be clear, the story isn’t a complete mess. It’s coherent and it’s clear what it is trying to accomplish but I think the film is trying to do too many things and it might have benefited from a little narrower of a focus. There are some parallels between the fact Rafe is dealing with both a jerk principal and the jerk his mom is dating but since one gets more development than the other, one of these dynamics feels tacked on needlessly. Additionally, the film adds in a girl that Rafe has a crush on but when this is mixed in with his pranks against the principal and dealing with the family drama, she ends up feeling like much like the boyfriend entering into the family and feels a bit unnecessary. To add to the dilemma, the film jumps focus on these matters very haphazardly and it made for a movie that kinda/sorta felt like it didn’t really know where it was truly going or if it really was in any real race to get there. Finally, the film throws in a lot of great concepts that could, in theory, add to the drama and the development of Rafe’s character and situation but are too often underdeveloped or lazily thrown in. For example, Rafe has a little bit of a tragic backstory that comes into play for his troublemaking and that needed some more attention. Additionally, there are some moments where the film wants to make some commentary about the current state of education and our emphasis on testing and memorization rather than nurturing real learning and this came out of nowhere at times and that made it just feel awkward. These elements made it a little difficult for me to really find myself engrossed in Rafe’s misadventures and it kinda took away from the overall pranking story.
|This part of the underage school girl dancing while the sprinklers went off|
felt wholly unnecessary and kinda inappropriate.
The cast, on the other hand, are all very good in their respective roles. Andy Daly and Rob Riggle are pretty much perfect as Rafe’s antagonistic authority figures and Adam Pally is very amusing in his few scenes (although, he really did deserve more and his character should have had a bigger role). Additionally, Thomas Barbusca was pretty entertaining as Leo but it was a little strange seeing him in a role where he’s not the hysterical sarcastic smart-mouth that I usually see him play (and completely nail, by the way. He really is great in that type of role). Finally, Griffin Gluck is doing a very good job as the lead and can pretty much nail the dramatic and comedic parts that his role requires.
|Seriously, Adam Pally is very funny and deserved more screen time but his|
character really felt like he too should have had a bigger and more influential
|Thriller references will never go out of style.|
I’m not going to say that I went into Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life expecting something that would split my sides open with laughter. Honestly, I just went in thinking that this has the potential to be a quirky and fun film. For the most part, it is. I liked the cast, I enjoyed the animated sequences that come into play every so often in order to illustrate Rafe's drawings and imagination, and there are some moments that I definitely found to be very humorous. Sadly, however, the film is harmed a little bit by a story that felt very sloppy. This kept it from being just an average, mildly amusing film and turned it into something that has a lot of flaws but still has some things working in its favor.