I think I have the sense of humor of a 13 year old boy because this movie gave me the giggles. “Middle School: Worst Years of My Life” is a cute, harmless little charmer that both adults and kids can enjoy together. It’s similar in tone to the “Wimpy Kid” series and while it never quite reaches the heights of those films, it’s still delightful.
Rafe (Griffin Gluck) is a skilled cartoonist with a wild imagination, but he isn’t too skilled at respecting authority. After being transferred to an oppressive middle school with a tyrannical principal (Andrew Daly) who is rule-crazy, Rafe and his sarcastic best friend Leo (Thomas Barbusca) decide to pull off the ultimate prank: attempting to break every single rule in the school’s Code of Conduct. The duo think up some awfully inspired hijinks, including covering the school hallways with post-it note art, swapping out the tardy bell with a fart noise machine, and turning the beloved trophy case into a full-blown aquarium. At home, Rafe has to deal with a loss in the family as well as his precocious sister (Alexa Nisenson), loving mom (Lauren Graham), and his soon-to-be idiot step dad Bear (the scene-stealing Rob Riggle).
There are some lively animated interludes that bring Rafe’s drawings to life and a genuinely touching surprise plot twist that I didn’t see coming. There’s not much new ground covered with the film’s been there, done that feeling of “let’s outsmart and principal, teachers and adults because kids are so much smarter” attitude, but this is a boisterous yet easy to swallow story that reminds adults how tough it is to be a tween.
Plus, it proves that you’re never too old to laugh at silly rude humor, a bumbling principal, or your mom’s doofus boyfriend.
“Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” is best described as a PG-friendly mash-up between “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” aimed at the pre-teen set.
Griffin Gluck is Rafe, a kid with a somewhat mysterious past that has just started at a new middle school after being thrown out of several others. His mom (Lauren Graham) warns him that this new school is his last option; he’s been kicked out of every other school, and this is the last one that will accept him. Almost immediately after starting, however, Rafe is already butting heads with Principal Dwight (Andrew Daly), who runs the school with a strict set of rules. If it wasn’t for Rafe’s best friend Leo (Thomas Barbusca), Rafe would never be able to make it through each day.
“Middle School” is a fun and funny movie and is highly relatable for both grown-ups and kids. As Rafe and Leo, Gluck and Barbusca have a nice chemistry and play off one another well. Graham is perfect as Rafe’s understanding mom, and Rob Riggle is hilarious (as always) as Graham’s boyfriend and Rafe’s nemesis, Bear. I laughed a lot, and was taken completely by surprise with a twist that I never saw coming — which hardly ever happens.
“Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” is a good little movie with a heart and one that you’ll enjoy watching with your pre-teen-to-teen kids.