This movie needed to be written by someone who got past the first lecture at the M. Night Shyamalan school of plot twists. Or better yet, someone who didn’t make 12-year-olds talk like pretentious idiots and make their principal respond to the kids using flower child slang.
Actually, the principal was mildly entertaining, if I’m being honest, even though his character was just one in a long line of tired cliches this movie threw at me. Clueless mother and her secretly kid-hating boyfriend, a school bully who’s a dick for no reason but will come around by the end, and a bunch of random poppy songs that the kids probably stopped listening to six months ago, with the Strumbellas’ contribution agonizingly censored to sing about “dreams” and “hearts” instead of “guns”.
This movie has absolutely nothing to offer to adults and even the hordes of tween terrors in attendance seemed restless during my screening. The first few fart jokes got a reaction, but after a while the kids stopped giggling at the rude sounds that everything seemed to make, including school bells as well as a cartoon gorilla landing on a zombie driving a motorcycle. As well, the big twist confused the kids both in front of and behind me, probably because it was contrived, unnecessary and rendered the movie even more nonsensical, and I would not have thought that to be possible until it happened.
Visually, there are interesting animated bits and some creative and colourful pranks that function as diversions, as long as you don’t think about any of it too much. Not only are the pranks impossibly large to have been pulled off overnight, how do these students gain entry into their school after hours, spend entire nights inside undetected, and pull these all-nighters for weeks on end without dozing off in class once?
It would be generous to call Middle School a lazy and half-baked adaption of a popular book series. Incidentally, I had to drop in the “half-baked” reference because the film painstakingly identifies Lauren Graham, the clueless mom, as a sous-chef, and then I swear she was making beef-a-roni in a food processor at 6 a.m., which must qualify as professional misconduct. And that’s not a one-off thing. The Middle School experience is 90 minutes of incomplete thoughts and unanswered questions.
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life gets an F and a month’s worth of detention, and even that is too lenient.