Based on the popular book series by acclaimed author, James Patterson, “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life,” is a fun romp for tweens with an important message for adults.
We join Rafe Katchadorian (Griffin Gluck) on his first day at a new school, Hills Village Middle School. The place is lorded over by Principal Dwight (Andy Daly), a man with no imagination, no tolerance, and a super-huge ego. Dwight confronts Rafe with the school’s rule book as Rafe walks in the front door—and it is quite the tome.
Not even allowed to have conversations in the hallways, the students toe the line, except in Mr. Teller’s (Adam Pally) class. He seems to have the same negative opinion of the principal as the students do. To make school tolerable, Rafe and his friend, Leo, decide to break every rule in the book, anonymously, of course.
Their hilarious shenanigans, like covering the walls with post-it notes and turning the trophy chest into an aquarium, amuse the students but make Dwight see red. Amazingly, the students seem to be doing better in their work.
As all of this is going on at school, Rafe’s home life takes a downturn. His single mom, Jules (Lauren Graham), dates a guy Rafe and his little sister, Georgia (Alexa Nisenson), nickname Bear (Rob Riggles). He’s a selfish jerk who obviously hates the kids but Jules dotes on him, going so far as allowing him to move into Jules’s home.
Rafe seems like a good kid but he’s going through something the audience isn’t clued into until later in the film. He’s been kicked out of other schools and Hills Valley is the only one who will take him. He’s bullied by other kids and the principal. When Georgia overhears Bear telling Jules that they should ship Rafe off to military school, Georgia begs him not to get into anymore trouble. What’s going on with this kid?
“Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life,” while providing great entertainment for the kids also sends a message to adults: listen to your kids. Not just with your ears, but your eyes and heart as well. Whether you are a parent, teacher, aunt, uncle, grandparent or adult friend, take time to listen to the children in your life. Talk to them. Let them know that they can tell you whatever is on their minds and be safe and loved. Grieving kids, especially, need lots of love and attention from the adults in their lives. My own sister died when I was in 7th grade, about Rafe’s age, and I remember one teacher in particular who was so kind and compassionate toward me. She listened.
Adults, be alert and observant of the unspoken messages kids give. Their body language and what they don’t say can clue us in to what they’re feeling. Encourage their creativity. Include them in important family decisions and always let them know they are loved, not only by you but by the Lord.