I smiled a couple of times and can even say I enjoyed myself, but this is clearly a movie that no adult will ever be able to get the way a kid does. An adult is going to sit there and say, “Wait a minute! Why doesn’t he just tell his parents?” or “No principal ever acted like that!” But a kid knows that none of that matters, any more than it mattered that no kid could ever string up the booby traps of “Home Alone.” This movie is just for fun, and it fits the bill.
Max Keeble (Alex D. Lindz) is filled with hope on his first day of middle school, but things just refuse to go right. The school bully, who telegraphs each day’s victim by emblazoning the name on his t-shirt, has selected Max as his starting point. His dream girl is a foot taller than he is and barely knows who he is. The animal shelter near the school is about to be shut down. An evil ice cream truck driver is after him. When Max finds out that his family is going to move to Chicago in just two days he is angry and sad until it occurs to him that this presents an opportunity for revenge without consequences. Before anyone can catch up with him, he’ll be gone. Max and his friends Megan (Zena Gray) and “Robe” (Josh Peck) set up a variety of pranks and enjoy them very much. But then it turns out that Megan and Robe do not have the “plausible deniability” Max promised. And that Max is not moving after all.
Kids all around me laughed happily at the slapstick humor, especially the scenes with the evil principal, Mr. Jindraike (Larry Miller) and the cafeteria food fight. They loved seeing the school’s two bullies (one throws kids in the dumpster, one takes their money) get their just desserts. Lindz has a lot of personality and he keeps us rooting for Max.
Parents should know that the movie has some crude humor, including a jockstrap, vomit, whacking someone in a sensitive area, and some schoolyard language. Kids do foolish and dangerous things, including riding a bicycle down cement steps, sucking helium, breaking into school at night, putting chemicals into a character’s breath spray, and operating machinery. Kids are harassed by bullies in various ways, including a “swirlie.” One of the bullies is black, but so is the friendly manager of the animal shelter.
Families should talk about why some kids act like bullies and why other kids let them. Some adults can act like bullies, too. The movie makes it clear that Max’s father has to learn how to deal with a bullying boss. What is the best way to respond to a bully? When should you ask adults for help? The janitor tells Max that “any kid can make a mess — it takes a man to clean it up.” And Max tells the kids that they should not bully the bullies when they get the chance because that would make them bullies, too. Families may want to discuss this in light of America’s consideration of the response to terrorism.