Boys aged eight and over may be familiar with Rafe Katchadorian and his creative troublemaking, and according to my 10-year-old this is a pretty faithful adaptation of the books. The target market should be happy enough.
Others will find Middle School doesn't stand out from other quirky American high-school-based books that have become movies - Diary of a Wimpy Kid comes to mind. It's a big budget version of an American high-school sitcom - filled with kooky teachers and sane kids (mostly) going through the motions to survive their school years.
Rafe Katchadorian (Gluck) is a kid who struggles more than most with the discipline of school. It's been a rough few years for Rafe, his precocious sister (Nisenson) and lovely Mum (Graham); which have also seen Rafe kicked out of several schools.
To help deal with his problems, Rafe retreats into his sketchbook, drawing characters and creating stories - many of which come delightfully to life in animation throughout the film. Drawing is an important part of his life, so when the new principal (Andy Daly) dissolves Rafe's sketchbook in acid, he retaliates by breaking as many of his tyrant principal's rules as possible.
This leads to some hilarious stunts around the school, few of which you can imagine being possible - which may be designed to put kids off attempting to replicate them. After a while it becomes repetitive, but the message about the importance of creativity and individuality has been well and truly received.
It's at this point
kicks into a surprising other gear. I won't spoil it, but underneath the predictable All-American school experience, there's some real heart.
Hopefully it resonates with the kids.
Verdict: A surprising heartfelt message saves this generic school flick.
Cast: Lauren Graham, Griffin Gluck, Alexa Nisenson
Director: Steve Carr
Running Time: 92 mins
Rating: PG (Contains Coarse Language)