• by Wes Singleton

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, C

Rated PG, 92 minutes
"Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life" could easily be a chapter in my autobiography, but it's also a thinly charming new comedy for children and pre-teens that would be more suited for ABC Family or Nickelodeon. A new student named Rafe Khatchadorian (Griffin Gluck), who is also a talented artist, must start a new school at Hills Village Middle School. Principal Dwight (Andy Daly) and most teachers who are in charge of him, are cruel and worse than the bullies. So after Rafe & his friends have finally had enough of them, they devise a creative way to take a stand against their abusive, overly strict principal. Based on the James Patterson (yes, that same James Patterson) "Middle School" series for young adults, the forgettable "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life" follows the same pattern as nearly all of these types of books since Beverly Cleary's "Ramona" and even Charlie Brown himself: an unlikely hero with a point to prove or a heart to win. Here, Rafe is out to show what a meanie the principal, memorably played by comedian Daly, who as the bad guy steals the movie: he's much more fun to watch than the bland lead character played by "Private Practice's" Gluck. The movie is thinly strung along by the series of elaborate yet unlikely stunts that are pulled off by Rafe and his mysterious friend Leo (Thomas Barbusca), including a fish tank build around the trophy case and walls covered with some creatively placed sticky-notes, as well as some brief episodes of animation, which have more energy than the live action portion. Unfortunately, director Steve Carr fills the second act with an unfunny subplot involving Rafe's mother (Lauren Graham) and a pompous jerk (Rob Riggle), and the film's twist at the end is touching enough but seems pulled out of the hat at the last second, given that the Rafe-Leo friendship is woefully underdeveloped from the start. The young set will find it appealing, but even they won't remember much about it after it's over. "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life" is unmemorable enough to skip it altogether, something most of us didn't have the pleasure of doing in real life.