Director: Steve Carr
Cast: Griffin Gluck, Lauren Graham, Rob Riggle
Release Date: January 3, 2017
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 7.5/10
Disc Rating: 7.5/10
Rafe has an epic imagination…and a slight problem with authority. Both collide when he transfers to a rule-crazy middle school. Drowning in do’s and don’ts, Rafe and his best friend Leo hatch a plan to expose the principal by breaking every rule in the school’s Code of Conduct. As the principal strikes back, Rafe’s world, at home and at school, explodes into hilarious chaos (both real and imagined) in this laugh-filled family comedy based on James Patterson’s best-selling book series.
Based on the bestselling book series, ‘Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life’ revolves around a boy named Rafe (Gluck) and his faithful companion Leo (Barbusca) who after one issue following another has just arrived to begin his first day at the last school willing to accept him. Unable to even conceive of moving away should things go awry, Rafe initially attempts to start things off with a somewhat positive attitude. Naturally that doesn’t last very long and when the ridiculous list of illogical school rules is brought to his attention and his personal artwork is burned into nonexistence by his power hungry new principal (Daley), Rafe promptly snaps and decides to join forces with Leo in order to wreak havoc on the school as payback, setting out to break every rule on the list.
Directed by Steve Carr (Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Next Friday) from a screenplay by Chris Bowman (Masterminds), Hubbel Palmer (Masterminds), and Kara Holden (Carrie Pilby) which was based upon the book(s) by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts respectively, Carr does an impressive job at the helm of ‘Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life’ capturing the tone, misery and carefree fun of its core audience surprisingly well. The film includes a cast comprised of both some familiar faces and lesser known individuals including Griffin Gluck (Why Him?), Lauren Graham (TV’s Gilmore Girls), Rob Riggle (Let’s Be Cops), Alexa Nisenson (Fist Fight), Andy Daley (TV’s Silicon Valley), Thomas Barbusca (TV’s The Mick), Retta (TV’s Parks and Recreation), Adam Pally (TV’s The Mindy Project), and more that for the most part deliver capable performances at the very least in each of their respective roles.
‘Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life’ is a surprisingly wonderful family friendly film brimming with heart, plenty of laughs and even tackling some painful issues along the way; all the while maintaining a fairly lighthearted and highly enjoyable tone that should have no trouble repeatedly plastering a grin on your face as a result. Based on the bestselling series of books by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts and capably guided with constant warmth and a fitting teenage oriented style by director Steve Carr, it’s a rare example of a live action film aimed at kids that delivers on almost every level; occasionally reminiscent of somewhat similar films from previous decades. Its pace may be wildly sporadic and all over the place, with a lighthearted moment immediately followed by a tearjerker scene, yet while some might criticize this as poor filmmaking, I can’t help but find it to be a true strength, serving as a painfully accurate representation of the emotional rollercoaster that should be familiar territory for any teenager, as well as anyone who ever was one; therefore in reality the perfect fit for a film told from the perspective of a middle school student. Some older audiences may be entirely uninterested in ‘Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life’ due to the kid friendly nature and style, while many other teenagers and even some adults such as me who tend to enjoy many family friendly films are likely to have a great deal of fun with this one. There’s a good chance that younger audiences and anyone who might be a fan of the popular book series which the film was based on will find this heartwarming, often hilarious and just plain enjoyable movie to be right up their alley and I would strongly suggest giving it a shot if you have the chance.
Overall, ‘Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life’ is a humorous, heartwarming and just outright enjoyable kids film that should offer something relatable for most of the family, or at least those willing to allow themselves to get into it. Complimented by a unique pacing that tends to frequently be all of the over place and as opposed to harming the film, actually ends up perfectly representing the emotional instability that can often be a daily occurrence for children of that challenging age. It probably won’t be for everyone, but for those who enjoy the books that serve as its inspiration and anyone who enjoys a sweet and remarkably fun family film, I would highly recommend giving ‘Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life’ a whirl at some point; it’s definitely worth a watch.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 2.39:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks pretty wonderful as a whole and provides a consistently sharp, detailed and colorful presentation with no noticeable faults to be found within. It handles the jumps between live action and animation without issue, as well as the heavily populated sequences, with the bright colors and every other aspect looking spot on at every point. Overall, this is a fantastic high definition video presentation from Lionsgate that should easily please the fans and casual viewers alike.
The Blu-ray release features a lossless 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This lossless multichannel soundtrack delivers a crisp, clean and quite active audio presentation from start to finish. It utilizes all five available channels regularly in order to send the music throughout them all, along with plenty of crowd chatter, sprinklers and numerous other auditory effects making their way throughout the various speakers, and never causing any dialogue which might be occurring simultaneously from become distorted or rendered inaudible in the process. Overall, this is a top notch 5.1 channel DTS-HD MA soundtrack that contributes some additional fun of its own to the overall viewing experience and shouldn’t disappoint.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life’ includes some fun extras for the whole family. Included on the release are a few ‘Deleted Scenes’ from the film (running approximately 3 minutes in length altogether), in addition to a ‘Gag Reel’ (running approximately 5 minutes), and a few behind the scenes Featurettes that include behind the scenes footage and interviews/comments with the cast and crew, and more fun. The included Featurettes are: ‘That Middle School Life’ (running approximately 11 minutes), ‘Middle School = The Worst/ Making Movies = The Best’ (approximately 5 minutes), ‘YOLO: Behind Operation Rafe’ (7 minutes), and ‘The Wedgie Wheel’ (3 minutes).