‘Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life’
Director: Steve Carr
Griffin Gluck, Lauren Graham
Rating: PG
2 (out of 5) Globes

Good news: “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” isn't the worst movie of Steve Carr's career. Bad news: It's still a Steve Carr movie. Carr, who directed such atrocities as “Daddy Day Care,” “Are We Done Yet?” and “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” has an insatiable penchant for poop jokes and shouting matches. But “Middle School,” based on a novel by James Patterson (not exactly the James Joyce of our times) and Chris Tebbets, is slightly more tolerable. There are some poop jokes and there is some shouting, but they're trounced by Patterson's saccharine idea of juvenile drama, which of course involves a third act reveal that one child has actually been dead the entire movie. 

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Rafe (Griffin Gluck, a good sport) is a prodigious young artist who, in the vein of all prodigious young artists, makes trouble at school. His loving sous chef mother (Lauren Graham, reheating some Lorelei Gilmore tics) tells him, and us, that this new school is the last that will take him. Purged of fun and creativity, it is a hoosegow run by tyrannical, anti-art adults, though there is the one token cool teacher (Adam Pally, affable). The school is run by the nefarious principal (Andy Dally, deeply annoying), a caricature of conservative hypocrisy who only cares about rules and standardized tests, spouting off lines like, "Art has no place in a school. It belongs in a museum, where old people can enjoy it." Rafe conjures up an idea to usurp the principal and his rules, causing bedlam with Post-It notes and hair dye and fart sounds. 

There aren't many memorable visual gags or lines of dialogue, but at least “Middle School” plays it safe and doesn't go out of its way to be relentlessly irritating. As with most lower-tier children's entertainment endeavors made by Baby Boomers, it's is rife with references to ’70s and ’80s pop-culture that can only please parents, though Graham gets one throwaway joke about not letting her daughter drink coffee that makes one long for the irreverent banter of the “Gilmore Girls,” which better hurry up and get back here.

Follow Greg Cwik on Twitter @GregCwik1