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Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life

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Parents may not care for the underlying message of this comedy for kids in which an artistically gifted but mildly troubled preteen (Griffin Gluck) rebels against the excessive discipline enforced by the rigid principal (Andy Daly) of his new school. Though his revolt, in which he's aided by his best friend (Thomas Barbusca) and supported by the sprightly classmate (Isabela Moner) for whom he's fallen, mostly involves harmless pranks, director Steve Carr's screen version of James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts' novel briefly veers into endorsing vandalism via the lad's domestic troubles, which arise from his sympathetic mom's (Lauren Graham) relationship with her creep of a live-in fiance (Rob Riggle) whose true love is an expensive sports car. As the live action alternates with animated sequences, much of the juvenile humor hovers at the level of a routine sitcom episode. The dramatic elements, by contrast, are handled deftly and to poignant effect. All told, though, youngsters should only be given permission to see this film after very careful consideration — if at all.

Watch out for: Cohabitation, youthful defiance of authority, mature themes, including the death of a child, much scatological humor, a handful of crass terms, some wordplay and brief sexual references. Probably acceptable for older teens.

Rated: A-III, adults; MPAA: PG

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016