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Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life Movie Review

Reviewed by on Oct 07, 2016
Rating: 3 Star Rating

Kidzworld checked out Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life. Can you relate to the characters? Is this a must-see for most tweens and teens? Check our movie review.

By: Lynn Barker

In Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life based on the book series by James Patterson, Rafe Khatchadorian (Griffin Gluck) is a talented artist at a time when arts programs are being cut in most schools. A loss in the family has hit him hard and his imagination and the crazy cartoon characters it creates are about the only things that keep him going. When a new school's horrible, mean principal comes into his life, destroying his precious sketchbook, Rafe simply has to break all the rules to get even.

Rafe rigs dye to enter the fire alarm systemRafe rigs dye to enter the fire alarm systemCourtesy of CBS Films

First Day

Rafe Khatchadorian is a cute middle school kid whose imagination and artistic bent have gotten him kicked out of several schools. His mom Jules (Lauren Graham) is at her wits end and self-centered Carl (Rob Riggle) nicknamed “Bear” whom she is about to marry, can’t wait for Rafe to screw up again so he can send him off to military school. On Rafe's first day, he is the target of strict Principal Dwight (Andy Daly) who says there is a rule book at this school and Rafe better follow it!

Happy family Georgia, Jules and RafeHappy family Georgia, Jules and RafeCourtesy of CBS Films

Big Test and Payback

Dwight is all about a big statewide test and is determined that his school will have high marks (if it does, he gets a bonus). He hates creativity and when Rafe’s sketchbook, which happens to contain an unflattering cartoon about him, falls into his hands, he destroys it along with Rafe’s spirit. Rafe and best friend Leo (Thomas Barbusca) decide to pull pranks that will break every one of the rules in Dwight’s book!

Rafe's drawings get him in troubleRafe's drawings get him in troubleCourtesy of CBS Films

Bully, Ally and Future Girlfriend

Totally in Rafe’s corner is activist and smart student Jeannie (Isabela Moner) who is the AV girl running the school “station”. Rafe’s nemesis in class is Miller (Jacob Hopkins) who makes fun of his last name every chance he gets.  On Rafe’s side is cool teacher Mr. Teller (Adam Palley) who encourages imagination.

Dwight tells Jeannie she's breaking school rulesDwight tells Jeannie she's breaking school rulesCourtesy of CBS Films

Escalating Pranks and Dwight’s Plot

Rafe and pal’s rule-breaking plots like wallpapering the entire school interior with Post-It notes, dumping dye in the fire water system and more continue while, at home, “Bear” makes life more and more miserable for Rafe and cool younger sis Georgia (Alexa Nisenson). When Jeannie videos Dwight pulling something illegal and mean that will exclude Rafe’s entire class from taking the state test, she joins Rafe and, eventually, the entire class in a final effort to get Dwight fired. Will things backfire on Rafe? Will he end up in military school while mom marries her evil boyfriend?

Dwight's office has been "posted"Dwight's office has been "posted"Courtesy of CBS Films

Wrapping Up

People who have read the books tell me that the film is very much in their “spirit” without being a copy. Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life is entertaining and certainly relatable to some tweens or younger teens. I like that the story celebrates imagination, the Arts and individuality but there is maybe a bit too much plot as the tale skips from the idea of Rafe busting all of the Principal’s rules to trouble on the homefront with evil almost-stepdad “Bear”. There is a very nice twist regarding Rafe losing a brother and a lot of the film supports family loyalty and love but the home stuff is almost a distracting sub-plot.

Rafe pulls his final prank during the testRafe pulls his final prank during the testCourtesy of CBS Films

Running on and off throughout the movie are very well-done and cute animation sequences depicting Rafe’s imagination but they slow down the film’s pace a bit.

Jeannie runs for school officeJeannie runs for school officeCourtesy of CBS Films

Overall, the young actors do a nice job with Griffin Gluck being both cute, clever and vulnerable in the role of Ralf but somehow, the characters play more as well… characters than real kids. Despite some flaws, the movie will provide laughs and even a few tears so we can go three stars. 

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life Movie Rating: 3

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life PosterMiddle School: The Worst Years of My Life PosterCourtesy of CBS Films

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life is in theaters now!


Have Your Say

How is or was your middle school experience? Did you balk at the rules or follow them? Leave a comment!