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Title: Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life

Movie: :1.5stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :2.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:67

You ever have one of those experiences where you sit back and say to yourself “I honestly didn’t expect it to be this bad”. I usually don’t have many of those moments. You can usually get a feel for a movie just by watching the trailer and can usually guess what star rating (ish) that I’ll give the film just by experience with genres and typical tropes that make up the majority of low budget films today. That’s not to say that I looked at the trailer for “Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life” and thought “wow, that’s going to be a great movie”, but rather that I didn’t expect it to be THAT horrific of an experience. Sadly, it really was one of the worst movies I’ve had the extreme displeasure of sitting through in quite some time. Honestly, I can’t think of a movie this poorly accepted by myself since my review of “Dragonwolf” a couple of years back, or maybe “50 shades of Grey”. Either way, “Middle School” just being just like my middle school experience. A nightmare that just didn’t seem to want to end.

The plot for “Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life” (shortened to just “Middle School” for the rest of the review for simplicities sake) is really not exactly very nuanced. It’s your basic brilliant kid who’s troubled with his past making school life difficult for himself. Young Rafe (Griffin Gluck) and his prize-winning Chef mother (Lauren Graham) have just moved to a new home and a hew school for the rest of his middle school career, and things are NOT going well. Rafe is a bit sullen after he and his family have experienced a tragic loss and dealing with the aftermath in the best way that he knows how. However, things taken an even MORE tragic turn when the young boy butts heads with the ridiculous Principal Dwight (Andy Daly) who has an over exaggerated sense of rules and regulations that the artistic boy just balks at.

After being pushed a bit TOO far when the draconian Principal Dwight destroys his artbook over a doodle, Rafe decides that enough is enough. It’s time to DO something about the crazy rules that his school is loaded down with and decides to fight back. Along with his friend, Leo (Thomas Barbusca), Rafe wages a two-man war against each and every rule that the school holds so very dear. Paint in the sprinklers, hair dye in hats, vandalism of the prized school trophy container, and the list goes on and on.

Movies filmed for an adolescent audience are usually not considered high art, but there is a myriad of ways to make them not only humorous for younger children, but also appealing for an adult audience as well. Disney has minted a fortune on that particular mantra and has skillfully walked the tightrope between childlike and adult with adept ease, while “Middle School”….well…. misses not only the rope, but the entire circus tent all together. Nothing coalesces as it should and except for ONE single twist in the beginning of the 3rd act, can’t manage to pull out a single real and heartfelt moment in the whole film.

I have never read the book that the film is derived from, but according to the reviews it can’t be anywhere as bad as the screen adaptation ended up being. Director Steve Carr employs the tried and true method of throwing everything at the proverbial wall in hopes that something sticks. The comedy is slap dash and horribly clichéd to the point of being painful. Characters like Principal Dwight and Vice Principal Ida Stricker (Retta) are overblown clichés that are so blatantly over cooked and warmed over that they aren’t even remotely funny. In fact, they’re borderline offensive to the viewer in how much of a parody they are (and I know they’re MEANT to be a parody, but parodies do better when they’re more subtle instead of feeling like someone threw a brick at your face in terms of their lesson). Rafe is your classic teenager rebel and the twist that comes in the 3rd act just feels empty being that we have no character to really connect with. Then there’s the wonderful inclusion of Rob Riggle as the jerky boyfriend to Rafe’s mother (who’s played in such a deadpan and phoned in way by Lauren Graham that I honestly wondered if she was dozing on set) in the only way that Rob Riggle can be. An overblown jerkwad with a big mouth. Supposedly he was intended as a funny character, but sadly I couldn’t manage to crack even a corner of my mouth in humor.


Rated PG for rude humor throughout, language and thematic elements

Video :4stars:

Once again, I can’t exactly find out WHAT film or digital cameras were used to shoot “Middle School”, but if I had to hazard an educated guess I would say that they’re using the Arri Alexa or Epic Red cameras as the film as all the earmarks of the digital cameras in question. There is a glossy and shiny look to the film, devoid of any grain (although there is some mild noise in a couple of night time shots), and the color grading is almost nonexistent. Which is rather nice, as the movie appears look very natural and full of bright color and pop. There’s some animated gimmicks that come up here and there with Rafe’s artistic notebook, as well as all sorts of vivid and neon colors as the adolescent plays his pranks on the school. Fine detail is more than acceptable although the budget doesn’t allow the picture to really be a stunner like a major blockbuster would be afforded.

Audio :4stars:

While not exactly an action film, “Middle School” manages to have a very satisfactory audio experience with the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track. Especially when the more boisterous moments of being inside of a middle school come into play. Surrounds are used sparingly, but effectively, to create an immersive environment that really gets a kick in the pants when the pop music starts blaring and the LFE adds its weight to the party. Dialog is crisp and cleanly replicated in the center channel and I had no problems with the imaging amongst the mains. I wouldn’t say that “Middle School” is a powerhouse, but it has enough auditory queues and immersive moments to make it a fun experience.

Extras: :2.5stars:

• "That Middle School Life" Featurette
• "Middle School = The Worst / Making Movies = The Best" Featurette
• "The Wedgie Wheel" Featurette
• "Yolo: Behind Operation Rafe" Featurette
• Gag Reel
• Deleted Scenes

Overall: :3stars:

I’m not going to say WHAT the twist is in the third act, but discerning viewers may well see it coming (I can’t believe that I didn’t see it, but then again I was more sitting shocked at the debacle happening on screen instead of putting clues together), and while some may find it sweet or touching, I can’t help but think of it as another missed opportunity by Director Steven Carr in his desperate attempt to throw EVERYTHING at the wall in hopes of making something stick. It’s a decently slick production and the Blu-ray itself is perfectly capable of putting out a great video and audio experience, but sadly nothing can make up for the holiday turkey that is the 92 minutes of digital video that you have to endure in order to experience those joys. Honestly, just run away in terror. Not worth the punishment.

Additional Information:

Starring: Griffin Gluck, Lauren Graham, Alexa Nisenson
Directed by: Steve Carr
Written by: Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1, English DD 2.0
Studio: Lionsgate
Rated: PG
Runtime: 92 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: January 3rd, 2017

Buy Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life on Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: No, just no

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