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"Middle School - The Worst Years of My Life", a Movie Review

Updated on March 15, 2018
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Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of 2, and a published sci-fi and horror author.

Introduction

"Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life" is a 2016 movie based on the James Patterson book series. It is aimed at middle-schoolers, though tweens and teens may enjoy it. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this movie?

This movie has touching scenes of sibling rivalry and bonding that many children and teens will relate to.
This movie has touching scenes of sibling rivalry and bonding that many children and teens will relate to. | Source

Strengths of the Movie “Middle School, the Worst Years of My Life”

The best parts of the movie are the sections where Rafe Katchadorian retreats back to the comic book visualizations of situations.

Many of the pranks in the movie are hilarious, though mostly impractical.

Rafe Katchadorian deals with bullying that many pre-teens and teens can relate with, though I would never recommend any actions in the movie as a way to gain status with peers.

The reveal at the end about his best friend is surprisingly good given the movie. Warning – this makes the movie inappropriate for young children.

The movie has several near-cuss words but no obvious curses except “suck”, so it is safe for the under-13 crowd or religious families that don’t want to hear those words at any age.

The sibling rivalry banter and jokes are good, as are the surviving siblings banding together in the face of adversity. The adults’ jokes, though, overwhelmingly fall flat.

Weaknesses of the Movie “Middle School: Worst Years of My Life”

The mother’s boyfriend is so over the top bad, from planning on moving in with Mom despite hating children and going beyond clichés for narcissism and arrogance it is intolerable.

Many of the children are stereotypes, too. There is the girl who always has her phone on who thus always has the opportunity to capture pictures of the pranks and share them.

There is a really long scene that is a Dave and Busters ad with a slight reminder of how bad Mom’s boyfriend is thrown in.

The little sister is not only allowed to drive but intentionally damage property. This is not behavior to be modelling, much less promoting. Even worse is when the children steal the mother’s boyfriend’s credit card number. Guys, that’s a crime.

The idea that the biological father would divorce after the death of the son Leo I understand. That he’d turn around and abandon his two surviving children altogether may make the movie get by with fewer characters but strains believability. If you lost one son and couldn't stand it, you don't abandon the other.

Observations

The mother is loving but clueless. I wish she’d been more competent instead of all adults being bad, ignorant or evil except the one “cool” teacher.

The best scenes and some of the funniest are when the movie shows the character's inner world through comic book style cartoons - and there isn't enough of this.

Conversations between the adults are trite down to contrived.

There is no character development of the adults beyond trope stereotypes. Mom is a sous chef, boyfriend loves his car, cool teacher who does fun lessons with kids, mean old principal, just as mean and over-bearing assistant principal.

There is a boring lecture against standardized testing in the movie that does nothing to improve the movie and hardly makes an impact on children in the audience.

Comparisons to Similar Young Adult Movies

The “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books and movies are funnier for all ages without the language and poor behavior choices. “Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day” is predictable in plot but much funnier. The biggest difference between this young adult movie and so many others today is no annoying love triangle, just a normal budding romance. Note: this romance is safe for any age to observe.

Summary

The movie is great in concept and its highlights, but the boring conversations, too many flat jokes, and clichéd characters except the main one and his sister pull it down. I give this movie three stars – and if they’d put more work into fleshing out the adults and other children, it could have been five stars.

Between the bad behavior of the middle schoolers and several emotional scenes, this movie is not suitable for children under seven. Seven to ten are fine if you don’t mind the language and actions described. Middle school students are the ideal audience for this movie. Older high school students may find portions funny. Parents are going to slog out the movie and hope the kids enjoy it enough to read the book series.

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