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Middle School: Family film’s creators didn’t listen to their own message

Rafe Khatchadorian (Griffin Gluck) and his mom Jules (Lauren Graham) in Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life.

Frank Masi

2 out of 4 stars

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life
Written by
Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer, Kara Holden
Directed by
Steve Carr
Griffin Gluck, Lauren Graham, Andy Daly, Rob Riggle, Alexa Nisenson

Probably the most damning critique you can give a family comedy is to say that you need to be a family to enjoy it. So, you need to be a family to enjoy Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life.

Based on the young readers' novel of the same name, the film is aimed at kids a little younger than the middle-school set, what with its tame comedy, stock characters and simple ideas.

Wimpy kids – most kids are wimpy; the ones who weren't grow up to be Donald Trump – will identify with Griffin Gluck as the protagonist Rafe Khatchadorian. He's a likeable boy who works out his issues by drawing in a notebook, and his frustrations and fantasies come to life in animated form on screen. On his first day at a new middle school, his rebellious streak is engaged by a one-dimensional tyrannical principal. With encouragement from a friend, he wages an implausible campaign of rule breaking and disruption.

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Idea-wise, scholastic issues are raised: standardized testing, the disregard for children's artistic pursuits and the overall regimentation of school life. Ironically, Middle School's message is about encouraging kids and grown-ups to think outside the box and yet, the filmmakers themselves do precisely the opposite.

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More


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