Our hero, or underdog, is Rafe Khatchadorian, a last name that sounds like a sneeze and everything. He was kicked out of two schools in the past year alone, and Hills Village Middle School is the last school that will accept him midsemester. There, he meets a tormentor named Miller, a principal with about 137 rules he reinforces, and a girl named Jeannie who tries to go against these rules politically but can't with the principal at the helm of the mic. Over a misunderstanding with doodling during a mandatory assignment about a lame test with B.L.A.A.R as the acronym, Rafe's notebook is completely obliterated and despite the fact he has an anything but clean record book, Leo convinces him to stick it to the man and punish Principal Dwight by destroying his book as well; break every rule and prove that rules aren't for everyone. The only questions are, will he get caught? How will the school react to his pranks? And which sections of the school? All the while, car obsessed dingbat Carl is dating Rafe's Mom and is willing to go very far and potentially shatter Rafe and her sister Georgia's lives forever.
So why do I like movies that make bad guys out of the people parents are supposed to trust with their child's learning and future? Well, when I was Rafe's age, I was bullied by these athletes who had homeroom beside my portable, and halfway in we ended up doing math together. I still cringe at those memories. Then in high school, I made mortal enemies with some of the faculty there. Especially the head librarian, which sounds perverse considering I'm me, but some of the faculty stood by the phrase "Rules are rules", regardless of what those rules might prevent students from doing. I was very happy when this movie was able to genuinely show how there are rules that can break the hearts of kids who just want to have fun. When Rafe's notebook is destroyed, we hear sad music, correct acting from Griffin Gluck and we feel for the notebook and imagine a work of art we once did that we will never see again. The mischief this movie comes up with is impressive and witty. But you know? I wish I didn't watch all the trailers. They give away a lot of the humorous moments. If some of these were more of a surprise, I can't imagine how much I'd be loving this movie atop all lately. I still love it, don't think I don'r. One minor problem I had with the movie was that it didn't show how Rafe and Leo are able to get into the school during hours where it would be locked down, but that wasn't something I was thinking about until after the movie finished; it didn't get in the way of the ride during the ride. Rob Riggle from 21 Jump Street plays Carl aka Bear, and he sort of reminded me of Bebop and Rocksteady from the latest Ninja Turtle movie: I might not like him much right now, but I think I might find him funnier when I see this film again.
But here's the thing I couldn't believe this movie had done, that wasn't even in the trailers. There's vandalism. I hate vandalism. I hate the idea of wrecking and disgracing property only for fun. Pretty much everyone I know hates the idea of wrecking and disgracing property only for fun. A splash pad once got vandalized, and it was the reason I started my entire book series. But think of it this way: If the splash pad was the property of the sort of people who designed the rules of conduct, I'd support, SUPPORT! that vandalism. To be fair, that vandalism wasn't for art and a sprinkler was wrecked, but if my librarian had ended up owning the...Basically, this movie presents a situation that made me in favour of one of the things I hate the most in the entire world!
So what did I like when it came to production? A new member of the family is a dog who my sister is going to want to hug when I force her to see the film. The cartoon sequences somehow have a smooth rendition and yet have that imperfect middle-school doodle charm that I'm sure illustrator Chris Tebbets will be proud of. When Rafe first meets Principal Dwight and Leo is standing right behind him in mimic mode, I reminded myself of all those times my mind goes to something funny and I laugh without anyone knowing why. This movie was basically made for me in certain ways. The way Rafe is able to put together the pranks is explained well enough though, which is a vital element that isn't hidden away in the antics. And Georgia wasn't given much development in the book. She does in the third book in the series but all throughout, she and Rafe are never on the same side. Here I felt like Rafe and Georgia really loved each other as bro and sis and helped each other out, but that doesn't stop them from calling each other "dork" and "loser". From the way this family functions, their relationship feels just right. And I guess Andrew Daly aka Dwight, was just never a kid, was he? Like Jindraike from Max Keeble, Daly puts together an antagonist impossible to root for and impossible not to hate, and sometimes that can make me wish there was more put into the character but here it works because he's an empty plate and this is a situation that wants to relate to middle schoolers, and it fits the bill.
Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life is loaded with believable characters, colourful mayhem, and funny, fast-paced animated cartoons.