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Steve Carr
Griffin Gluck, Lauren Graham, Andy Daly, Rob Riggle
Writing Credits:
Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer, Kara Holden

Imaginative quiet teenager Rafe Katchadorian is tired of his middle school's obsession with the rules at the expense of any and all creativity. Desperate to shake things up, Rafe and his best friends have come up with a plan: break every single rule in the school and let the students run wild.

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
English Descriptive Audio
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 92 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 1/3/2017

• “That Middle School Life” Featurette
• “Making Movies” Featurette
• “The Wedgie Wheel” Featurette
• “YOLO: Behind Operation Rafe” Featurette
• Gag Reel
• Deleted Scenes
• DVD Copy
• Previews


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Middle School: The Worst Years Of My Life [Blu-Ray] (2016)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 20, 2016)

In the same vein as the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, 2016’s Middle School: The Worst Years Of My Life visits kids at That Awkward Age. Somewhat rebellious Rafe Khatchadorian (Griffin Gluck) loves art and not much else, which means academia creates struggles for him.

Rafe gets the boot from one facility and ends up at Hills Village Middle School. There his attitude becomes an even bigger problem because Principal Ken Dwight (Andy Daly) runs a rules-obsessed building that stifles all attempts at creativity. In a series of ingeniously defiant acts, Rafe strikes back.

As I push closer to 50 than I’d like to admit, I go farther and farther from my middle school experience, but I still remember those years well – and I suspect I’m not alone. I wouldn’t classify this era as bad, but it didn’t exactly rock.

With Worst, we get a semi-idealized look at middle school. Frankly, Rafe offers a less than threatening “rule-breaker”, as it’s hard to imagine he’d get kicked out of a Dairy Queen, much less expelled from multiple schools.

That said, I understand this movie exists for a suburban kid audience and it doesn’t aspire to deliver a middle school Dangerous Minds. Heck, Worst doesn’t even attempt the “grittiness” of something as milquetoast as Breakfast Club.

No, Worst exists as a fantasy exaggeration of early teen life that aspires to give kids a little vicarious rebellious thrill – and that’s fine. Like the aforementioned Wimpy Kid franchise, the movie focuses on comedy and attempts to allow its target audience to revel in their shared semi-misery.

The Wimpy Kid movies provided similar genial innocence, and they brought moderate entertainment. Worst follows suit, as it presents mild amusement but nothing especially memorable.

Granted, as I alluded earlier, I’m pretty far from that target audience. Even while I remember my middle school years, I seem unlikely to dig into most movies aimed at that crowd.

Still, I think a well-made film is a well-made film, so even when I fall outside of the intended crowd, I should be able to appreciate something like Worst.

And I do like parts of Worst. It manages to encourage creativity in kids and it gives Rafe a tone more oriented toward originality and intelligence rather than “bad boy” insouciance. Rafe falls for the unconventionally cute smart girl, which also becomes a nice trend – usually he’d go for the vapid blonde.

Worst comes with a decent cast, and they offer some fun. Daly and Rob Riggle don’t exactly leave their comedic comfort zones, but they present occasional moments of amusement. Gluck also makes Rafe likable but not insufferable.

That said, Worst remains pretty ordinary much of the time. Despite all its chances for creativity, it remains oddly restrained and never bites into the wild abandon it seems to desire.

Some of the story’s stabs at emotion don’t really work, especially in connection to Rafe’s family. We learn that his younger brother died from cancer, and this theme comes across as a gratuitous attempt at emotion. It doesn’t succeed, mainly because it feels unnecessary and like it comes from another movie.

All of this leaves Worst as inoffensive entertainment for the younger set. Adults will find occasional pleasure from it but shouldn’t expect much – it’s a watchable effort that never becomes especially memorable.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus C-

Middle School: The Worst Years Of My Life appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer came across well.

Sharpness looked solid. Virtually no softness emerged, so we ended up with an image that appeared accurate and distinctive. I witnessed no shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes remained absent. As expected, the film lacked any print flaws.

In terms of palette, Worst went with a mix of orange, teal and amber. It didn’t overwhelm us with these choices, but they dominated. Within the stylistic choices, the hues seemed fine. Blacks were deep and tight, and shadows looked smooth and clear. Across the board, this became a terrific presentation.

Though not scintillating, the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack suited the story. This meant the soundscape accentuated general atmosphere and came to life only on sporadic occasions. Animated representations of Rafe’s art used the soundscape in a peppy manner, but much of the rest of the mix lacked a lot of ambition.

Audio quality appeared good. Speech seemed distinctive and concise, without roughness or brittleness. Music was warm and full, and effects came across as accurate. This ended up as a more than acceptable track for a comedy.

A handful of extras fill out the disc, and we begin with a featurette called That Middle School Life. It runs 10 minutes, 57 seconds and delivers comments from author/executive producer James Patterson, producer Bill Robinson, director Steve Carr, production designer Perry Blake, animation supervisor Chris Sauve, and actors Lauren Graham, Thomas Barbusca, Griffin Gluck, Isabela Moner, Alexa Nisenson, Rob Riggle, Andy Daly, Retta, Efren Ramirez, Adam Pally, and Jacob Hopkins.

“Life” looks at cast and characters, sets and production design, and the movie’s animated sequences. The first half consists largely of fluff – and spoilers - but the second gives us some decent material.

Next comes the awkwardly-titled Middle School = The Worst/Making Movies = The Best. It fills five minutes, 28 seconds and involves Gluck, Carr, Ramirez, Hopkins, Moner, Nisenson, Daly, Riggle, and Patterson. This one gives us cast/character notes. It’s mainly promotional happy talk, though some fun shots from the set emerge.

With The Wedgie Wheel, we get a two-minute, 33-second reel. It involves Pally, Gluck, Ramirez, Riggle, and Sauve. The participants offer their thoughts on wedgies and their use in the movie. It’s forgettable.

YOLO: Behind Operation Rafe lasts six minutes, 55 seconds and includes Gluck, Riggle, Blake, Carr, Ramirez, Moner, Hopkins, Retta, Nisenson, Barbusca, Pally, producer Leopoldo Gout and DP Julio Macat. “YOLO” looks at the movie’s pranks and their execution. Though not packed with substance, “YOLO” presents some decent thoughts about these elements.

After this we locate a Gag Reel. In this five-minute, 22-second compilation, we get the usual goofs and giggles. Some of the actors offer a couple of funny asides, but don’t expect much.

Four Deleted Scenes take up a total of three minutes, 21 seconds. We see “Stricker Hallway” (0:41), “Lunchroom” (1:10), “Bear Refrigerator” (0:52) and “Rafe Thanks Gus” (0:38).

Of these four, “Lunchroom” offers the most entertainment via the introduction of a brutish lunchlady. “Bear” gives Rob Riggle a little more to do, which makes it watchable. The other two feel superfluous.

The disc opens with ads for The Great Gilly Hopkins and Rock Dog. No trailer for Worst appears here.

A second disc presents a DVD copy of Worst. It includes the same extras as the Blu-ray.

Mild entertainment for adolescents, Middle School: The Worst Years Of Its Life neither thrives nor flops. It comes with occasional signs of creativity but remains pretty average most of the time. The Blu-ray offers excellent visuals as well as fairly positive audio and a small set of bonus materials. Preteens may dig this flick but it lacks a lot of value to others.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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