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Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life (2016) movie poster Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life

Theatrical Release: October 7, 2016 / Running Time: 92 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Steve Carr / Writers: Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer, Kara Holden (screenplay); James Patterson, Chris Tebbetts (book)

Cast: Griffin Gluck (Rafe Khatchadorian), Lauren Graham (Jules Khatchadorian), Rob Riggle (Carl "Bear" Dowling Jr. III), Thomas Barbusca (Leo Khatchadorian), Andy Daly (Prinicipal Ken Dwight), Adam Pally (Mr. Teller), Retta (Ida Stricker), Efren Ramirez (Gus), Isabela Moner (Jeanne Galleta), Alexa Nisenson (Georgia Khatchadorian), Jacob Hopkins (Miller)

Buy Middle School from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD DVD Instant Video

Adapted from Jeff Kinney's bestselling children's books, the 2010 film Diary of a Wimpy Kid was neither an instant classic nor a blockbuster.
Perhaps in twenty years, it will be as revered as Hocus Pocus now is to many millennials. But, initial critics and moviegoers just seemed to think Wimpy Kid was okay. Still, there were enough of the latter to make two sequels in two years and the budgets were small enough for even the medium-sized returns to be deemed profitable.

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life seems to be aiming for the exact same audience and reception. It too adapts a book and one with an unlikely author: grizzled and accomplished psychological thriller novelist James Patterson, who ventured into kid's lit with co-author Chris Tebbetts in 2011. Like the text, the film centers on Rafe Khatchadorian (Griffin Gluck), a creative pre-teen boy who is switching schools mid-semester after being expelled.

The family comedy "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life" centers on repeatedly-expelled creative student Rafe Khatchadorian (Griffin Gluck).

That troubled academic record is at odds with our impression of Rafe, who has a good heart and vivid imagination. But he immediately does not like Hills Village MS, thanks in large part to Ken Dwight (Andy Daly), the school's code of conduct-citing, standardized test-loving principal whose strict methods make him loved by no one. Any chance of Dwight and Rafe getting along is erased early when the principal takes Rafe's sketchbook full of drawings and disintegrates it in a bucket of acid.

At the encouragement of fellow transfer student Leo (Thomas Barbusca), Rafe decides to strike back by breaking the rules that Dwight holds so dear. Rafe carries out his plan anonymously to the delight of his fellow students and the bewilderment of the targeted administrator. The rule-shredding involves gags that seem colorful and imaginative as long as you don't think about them. Rafe fills the walls with colorful Post-It notes and dyes Dwight's hair bright pink.

The adolescent rebellion gets not just Rafe in trouble, but also his cool teacher Mr. Teller (Adam Pally), who uses Drake and Future to teach free trade. As in the Wimpy Kid films, animation brings to life Rafe's drawings, which offer him some kind of moral support. (I guess it's noteworthy that the animation is 2D, making this one of the few new theatrical films in which you can find that traditional cartoon medium.)

Rafe demonstrates that Rules Aren't For Everyone (get it? R.A.F.E.!) by covering the school in Post-It Notes, a prank that would require significantly more time to set up than to clean up.

Also along for this ride are Rafe's single mother (Lauren Graham), a sous chef who prepares him haute bagged lunches, and Carl (Rob Riggle), her clearly awful, immature, and car-obsessed boyfriend, who is a bear in Rafe's doodlings.

Middle School seems to have its heart in the right place, encouraging creativity and challenging absolute belief in standardized testing. But it's not nearly as funny and smart as it believes itself to be. The gags are unimaginative.
The comedy is crude. And the message is unoriginal and unconvincing. The film allocates some solid screentime to actors like Riggle and Daly, who often amuse in more limited roles in teen and adult-oriented fare. But there is merely a chuckle here and there and the plot designed to give the film weight is downright manipulative and hokey.

Middle School's hopes of drumming up Wimpy Kid-type business proved to be in vain, as the film ended up with $20 million domestic, less money than the first two Wimpy Kid movies grossed in their opening weekends. And unlike those films, which did a little bit of business in international markets, this one has hardly played outside of North America and only to insignificant returns. While its $8.5 M budget was small by any standards, it wasn't small enough for Middle School to be chalked up as a commercial win or as a potential franchise (Patterson has published nine books in the series to date).

Less than three months after opening in theaters, Middle School kicks off 2017 with this week's Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD release from Lionsgate and CBS.

Middle School: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish), 2.0 DTS-HD (Optimized for Late Night Viewing), Dolby Digital 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: January 3, 2017
Two Single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($29.95 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Despite the low budget, Middle School still looks and sounds great on Blu-ray. The 2.40:1 picture is vibrant and sharp, while the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is without issue. A DTS 2.0 soundtrack, specially mixed for late night viewing, seems kind of unnecessary, but it's included nonetheless.

Boys will be boys on the set of "Middle School." Actor Adam Pally mimes the wedgie he invents in "The Wedgie Wheel."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Middle School is joined by six extras on Blu-ray and DVD, all of which the former presents in HD.

"That Middle School Life" (10:57) kicks things off with the cast discussing the story, characters, and certain technical aspects of production.

"Middle School = The Worst / Making Movies = The Best" (5:28) offers more of the same with a bit more focus on the filmmaking aspect.

"The Wedgie Wheel" (2:33) has cast members invent different types of wedgies that they describe for you.

"Yolo: Operation Rafe" shows all the colorful ball pit balls this movie made use of. Carl/Bear (Rob Riggle) explores the fridge and gets caught being nasty in this deleted scene.

"Yolo: Operation Rafe" (6:55) is another making-of featurette,
this one dealing strictly with the elaborate pranks that the movie stages.

A gag reel (5:22) supplies some diversion with the standard mix of goofs and bloopers.

Finally, a deleted scenes section (3:21) consists of four scenes: one a partly animated one involving the vice principal played by Retta ("Parks & Rec"), another a cafeteria scene casting an otherwise-absent Laura Kightlinger as a lunch lady, a refrigerator conversation between Rafe's mom and Carl, and brief moment involving the janitor played by Napoleon Dynamite's Efren Ramirez.

The discs open with trailers for The Great Gilly Hopkins and Rock Dog. "Also from Lionsgate" repeats these, but Middle School's own trailer is not included.

The main menu plays clips amidst Rafe's colorful doodles.

The two full-color discs share a slipcovered, eco-friendly keepcase with a Digital HD insert.

"Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life" is one of the rare recent theatrical releases to feature traditional hand-drawn animation, albeit sparingly.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Middle School is very much on the order of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: fairly harmless entertainment that will play best with very young and easily amused viewers. If you don't think you belong to either of those classes, you can skip without a second thought.

For those who do make up the target audience, Lionsgate's Blu-ray combo pack has great audio and video plus some decent extras.

Buy Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

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Reviewed January 4, 2017.



Text copyright 2017 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2016 CBS Films, James Patterson Entertainment, Participant Media, and 2017 Lionsgate.
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