Rated: PG for rude humor throughout, language and thematic elements. Reviewed by: Frank Release date: October 7, 2016 Released by: CBS Films
If middle school is a problem for Rafe (Griffin Gluck) it comes in three waves. There is some bulling, the standard testing is coming up and the principal played as a fool by (Andrew Daley) is the major cog in Rafe's life at his new school.
The principal has a rule book which all kids must abide by, along with an expectation that his school will collectively receive a test score making it the number one school in the district. It's important to him for pride and for an increase in pay. Andrew Daly's principal Dwight is obnoxious. He is silly and over the top almost idiotic but that is what the script calls for and he comes through right on target.
Rafe is sent to this new school as a result of his acting out at all other locations since the death of his brother and his father leaving his home. He remains with his mother (Lauren Graham) and sister (Alexa Nisenson) until he meets an Leo played stylishly by (Thomas Barbusca - Peter Pan on the GEICO TV commercial). When Leo pops up at the new school he challenges Rafe to be creative and break all the rules in Principal Dwight's rule book. Retta, is the loyal VP carrying out Mr Dwight's directives.
Leo is in many ways the heart of the story, as he motivates Rafe to take chances witch can cause him problems or lead him to a move confident place in his life.
Lauren Graham has little to do as Mom, she is impressed by Bear (Bob Riggle) a bragging looser who moves in on the family when Mom doesn't object or even think about it. Sister Georgia (Alexa Nisenson) has the smart lines always pushing her brother in both negative and positive ways. She also knows how to drive (sort of) and has the courage to take out Bear's very expensive red BMW.
The only adult who appears to understand and use his common sense is Mr Teller (Adam Pally) who sees significant creativity in Rafe's sketches which take up much of his free and non free time. Periodically the screen fills with the characters as seen on Rafe's sketch pad to carry out actions Rafe sees in his mind.
Much of what Rafe fears and is forced to live through appear to us a comical, but the script has a center which explains his actions and courage, that forms the heart of the film.
There is just enough of what we expect in a Middle School film along with a little stronger and more firm core that lifts the script above the average.
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