Quick Movie Review: The Founder (2016)

the founder

Like many well-known brands, McDonald’s was catapulted to the top of the fast-food chain by a not-so-nice person, Ray Kroc.

In The Founder, Kroc, portrayed by Michael Keaton, is a struggling traveling salesman who discovers McDonald’s, a burger restaurant in San Bernradino, CA, owned by Dick and Mac McDonald. He convinces them to bring him on board so that he can successfully franchise their brand all over the country, promising to keep the integrity of their name.

And he does at first. Kroc is obsessed with maintaing the family-friendly environment that the McDonald brothers had finally established. He romanticizes the idea of family and wholesomeness. Like many Americans, Kroc is a dreamer. But it’s how he achieves his dreams–destructing everyone around him–that are unfortunate.

Just like The Founder is a lesson on how to succeed in business, it also shows the inherently flawed nature of the business world in America. To where Kroc has a flourishing business, yet is still drowning in debt and about to lose his house–forcing his hand to be greedy and dishonest and even more aggressive in order to survive. Combined with the success and fame getting to his head, it turns him into a monster. It’s a seamless transformation over the course of the film, to where we almost forget that he wasn’t like that in the beginning.

The Founder starts off as a nice period piece of the 1950s, throwing at us a ton of zeitgeist from that era. It’s about how the McDonald brothers were able to think outside of the box in order to push their popularity ahead of all their competition. It’s fun, loose, and nostalgic. But then it does something a little odd. 30 minutes in, it begins to introduce personal drama in Kroc’s life. Tension with his wife when there was none before. It feels forced, but since it happens early on and is present throughout the rest of the movie, we soon forget about how out of place it was. It just wouldn’t have been so jarring if they had started out the film with some of this drama. Because then we wouldn’t feel like a movie about McDonald’s has turned into a movie about Ray Kroc.

Taking some subtle pages from The Social Network, The Founder really makes Kroc comparable to Mark Zuckerberg. We like him much of the time–especially in the beginning–but then eventually we can’t stand him. But since we liked him at some point, there’s part of us that still has an affinity for him. Although, unlike Zuckerberg, Kroc’s opposition are extremely likable. We’re rooting for them the whole time. Kroc actually becomes the true antagonist of this story.

The brothers’ forward thinking gets them the successful restaurant in the first place, but then they set themselves in their ways and are eventually afraid to change at all when Kroc tries to make them. Kroc adapted much better to the rapidly growing capitalist America. The McDonald brothers wanted fame over fortune–to see their name all over the country–and got it. But that’s about all they got.

It’s really a sad film. It’s depressing. McDonald’s has always been one of those establishments that’s represented America–especially in the 20th century. Luckily this movie won’t tarnish those feelings. Because Super Size Me already did that.

Twizard Rating: 93


Quick Movie Review: A Bad Moms Christmas (2017)


While sequels to movies like Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey take 25 years to get greenlit, 2016’s Bad Moms begins principal photography on its followup just 10 months after its release.

In a sequel more rushed than Porky’s 2, Bad Moms Christmas must’ve had some sort of high demand. I know I was very surprised with the first film, but in no way did I need a sequel a year later. Especially if I knew it was going to look like this.

The premise revolves around the three main characters from last time–played by Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn–having issues with their own mothers as they visit during Christmastime.

Of course, it wouldn’t be hilarious unless their moms had putrid flaws. And the writers know this as well, which is why we get cookie cutter maternal stereotypes: the over-bearing mother who never gives her daughter any space (Cheryl Hines), the mother who neglects her daughter and only comes around to ask for money (Susan Sarandon), and the high expectations mother whose daughter can never do anything right (Christine Baranski)–all three played way over the top in the most annoying and unrealistic way possible.

But that’s pretty much the whole movie. Everything the characters do or say to each other is unrealistic. The hijinks always ensues because of this. In fact, it NEEDS character responses to be impractical in order for it to exist. It merely serves to further the plot and allow the story to keep going.

Which it barely even does. Up until the last 10 minutes, nothing develops between the beginning and end of this movie. There’s just scenario after scenario of the mothers doing things to upset or annoy their daughters. It’s the final straw about eleven different times, yet there are no changes in the outcome or how the characters deal with it either way, because no one possesses any real self-awareness. The characters just keep getting angry, and so do we.

And it’s not just the lack of development that keeps it running at snail’s pace. The humor is juvenile and unfunny. So many scenes are halted by verbose dialogue that’s supposed to make us laugh. We don’t. When a film draws out comedic scenes for too long–which is a trend these days–it suspends any momentum that the narrative has built. But when it happens over and over again, there becomes almost no momentum to be suspended in the first place.

On paper, this movie should be good. But this proves that a film is so much more than its actors. A Bad Moms Christmas is a complete waste of its talents.

There are countless comedies that are forgettable, yet still give us one or two memorable moments. They won’t ever be considered classics, but they were never trying to be. You have to take them at face value. However, even at face value, this one is way below par.

Twizard Rating: 41

Quick Movie Review: The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille (2016)

lost city

1923’s silent production of The Ten Commandments proved to be one of the most ground breaking films of its time. Produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille, this was to be expected. The man essentially brought cinema to Hollywood and made the two synonymous with each other.

For The Ten Commandments, sets were huge and over-the-top, creating the blueprint for DeMille’s followup talkie version in 1956–perhaps the most ambitious films ever made. DeMille was a very ambitious guy.

Nearly 60 years later, writer, Peter Brosnan, set out on an ambitious project of his own. In 1982, after hearing that there may be an ancient Egyptian city buried in California, he becomes fixated with digging it up.

The story goes that after filming wrapped up in 1923, this massive set just disappeared. Well, DeMille was supposed to have completely destroyed his set, per a deal with the land owners in Guadalupe, California. But a brief quote from his autobiography hints that maybe he didn’t. Maybe he just buried it beneath the sand dunes in Guadalupe.

The documentary jumps back and forth between DeMille’s filming of the Ten Commandments and Brosnan’s excavation, keeping the context fresh in your mind. The film also serves as a sort of mini-biography on DeMille’s life. It’s a surprisingly spiritual project, drawing beautiful parallels between DeMille’s career and Brosnan’s 30 year endeavor, and how they both overcame seemingly impossible obstacles through faith and God-given strength and determination.

For 30 years Brosnan wasn’t just trying to dig up the lost city, but also researching the filmmaking itself, compiling tons of rare interviews with cast members and locals of Guadalupe–all of which could very well double as special features on The Ten Commandments DVD release.

Brosnan often uses a romanticized viewpoint of early Hollywood, but you can tell he has a solid grasp of the times. These types of projects are much better when the filmmaker has this kind of evident passion.

The only real pitfall in this documentary is the stiff narration by Brosnan, himself. But the facts are what’s important–even if they’re not always presented in the most invigorating ways.

But Brosnan showcases some truly impressive film editing here. There’s definitely a specific vision in mind. Since his documentary was made over the span of 30 years, it often has a retro feel to it. Old footage is much grainier, truly showing the longevity of this project. Details don’t go overlooked either. Even the small ones. Each time he shows a still photograph of the Hollywood sign, it’s chronologically accurate with the time being discussed in the film.

The parallels run deep. It took Cecil B. DeMille 30 years to realize his crowning achievement. He made The Ten Commandments in 1923, but with complete freedom got to make the film he actually wanted in 1956. Brosnan’s patience pays off as well, perhaps stumbling upon his own magnum opus.

Twizard Rating: 87

Quick Movie Review: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)

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Strangely enough Zac Efron was in 3 comedy films in 2016, when the man lacks any sort of comedic conviction whatsoever. It’s a good thing he has Adam DeVine to compensate for him in Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.

The film follows Mike and Dave (DeVine and Efron), brothers who are always screwing up family parties with their wild sensibilities and attempts to snag women. So for their sister’s wedding in Hawaii, their parents give them an ultimatum–either they bring nice girls as dates or they don’t show up at all.

Right away you think to yourself, “Well they probably have a couple of female friends that are parent approved.” Whether or not this would work for the characters’ dilemma, this simple solution is never addressed. Mike and Dave jump straight to placing an ad on Craigslist, advertising a free trip to Hawaii, because that’s the easiest way to get strange women to go on vacation with you. The unrealistic thought process of the characters not only insults the audience’s intelligence, but lets us know that the film is just a means to an end, uninterested in actual logic.

Situations within a ridiculous premise still have to be cohesive to that ridiculous premise. Writers can’t just do anything they want just because they’ve established a impractical scenario.

After placing the ad, the guys get thousands of responses but inexplicably can’t find girls who are acceptable enough for their parents’ standards. Eventually, a pair of trashy girls (Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick) decide they want a free vacation and put on a nice-girl front so the guys will want to take them.

There are plot holes galore in this setup, but it’s also the time in the movie with the best comedy. The rest of the way includes some funny isolated moments, but for the most part it tapers off. Then when it tries to stretch the already-thinning plot, things get weird and unnecessary.

With that said, I laughed more than I probably should have. DeVine has a true knack for comedy, which only serves to outshine his costars, constantly creating a juxtaposition of how poor the rest of them are.

Besides the initial archetypes set for the characters, their personalities are constantly wavering. We’re made to like and dislike certain characters on a whim based on what’s convenient to the story at any given moment. I do applaud, however, that the film doesn’t really waste time trying to create conflict and develop a relationship between the two girls. Whether this was inadvertent or intentional, it works in favor of the overall product.

At one point in the story the film Wedding Crashers is mentioned, which only reminds us of what we could be watching instead.

Twizard Rating: 60

Quick Movie Review: Passengers (2016)


Great sets, cool effects, and an outer space setting–all the typical makings of a sci-fi movie. Don’t let this fool you. It’s a romance film. And a good one at that. It delves deep into the psyches of two characters and sees it all the way through.

Chris Pratt plays Jim, a passenger on board a spaceship heading towards a distant planet in order to repopulate away from Earth. The journey lasts 120 years and all 5000 passengers are supposed to remain in hibernation up until the final descent. After the AI wakes up Jim, he’s excited about all the new people and opportunities he’ll face. Except he discovers he’s been awoken 90 years too early. And he’s the only one who has.

Unable to put himself back into hibernation, he’s alone for over a year. He contemplates ending his own life until he discovers the hibernation pod of a woman, Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence). Her presence gives him hope. He learns all about her from her passenger profile and ultimately falls in love with her. With nobody else on the ship–except a robot bartender (Michael Sheen)–he mulls over the idea of waking her up so she can share in his miserable desolation.

In some regard you can’t imagine another actor in Pratt’s role. His distinct brand of humor and timing gives us the levity we enjoy throughout the film. Then we ask ourselves if we really need it in the first place. He has a chance, here, to showcase his dramatic acting chops. And he really tries, but with somewhat diminishing returns. It’s not terrible, but it’s just enough to question his casting–other than the fact that he’s a marquee name.

His tongue-in-cheek persona just adds to the film’s already-uneven tone, which is only exposed more by its all-too-telling score. I enjoy a couple of the motifs, but I also don’t like being told when my mood should change from happy to sad.

Yet we get a lot out of the performances. Emotions from both leads are felt. Lawrence perfects chilling anger and Pratt does fine with his drowning-soul melancholy. Once she’s in the picture, Pratt’s acting improves drastically. Not many will deny the pair’s chemistry. But you can also make a case that either would have the same chemistry with anyone else they were to share the screen with.

There are a couple of details that are lazily missed, but those plot holes don’t really make or break the overall story of the film. Director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) gives us some lazy cuts, but the DP makes up for it with some deceptively beautiful cinematography.

Although the tonal shifts are all but jarring, its ruggedness works in favor of its self-created hybrid genre. The big reveal is a bit disappointing, but necessary to the greater good of the story.

Passengers is a fantastic love story whose premise only makes sense amidst its intergalactic setting.

Twizard Rating: 90

Quick Movie Review: Neighbors 2 (2016)


If you want to talk about consistency between the two Neighbors films, they do a great job. Unfortunately, the first film isn’t good. And its sequel is perhaps slightly more enjoyable than its predecessor, but suffers from so many of the same fundamental issues (see Neighbors).

I didn’t need to revisit the first film in order to prep for this one. All I had to remember was how much I hated it.

This one features the same unbelievable amount of plot holes, the same immature and derivative humor, yet lacks the somewhat “relatable” theme. However, I can probably say that I laughed a bit more this time around (twice is still more than once, right?).

In Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, husband and wife duo, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne, sell their house, which is now in escrow. So the new owners have 30 days to back out if anything seems fishy about the situation. It just so happens that a new sorority, headed by Chloe Grace Moretz, moves in next door. Apparently sororities in America have a strict “no party rule,” but THIS sorority vows to ignore that rule and throws one every night of the week.

One of the things I hate about the first film is repeated once more here. The filmmakers want us to root for both sides, trying to make us empathize with both Rogen/Byrne AND the sorority sisters. But reality is, Moretz and her gang are really terrible people. What halfway-decent person would throw bloody tampons at a window with a 2-year-old on the other side watching? I’m literally not exaggerating.

Then, in comes Zac Efron reprising his frat-guy role from the first film. But he’s not just featured in the film–he becomes a third protagonist. We go into his whole story of being kicked out of his apartment after his roommate gets engaged. Now he feels all alone and is unsure of where his life is going.

So the film is jumping around all three stories and winds up covering zero ground because of it. And Rogen, who’s the only funny person out of the leads, is featured the least. Moretz and Efron are great and all, but they’re not funny. This is a comedy.

Pretty much the whole film consists of the married couple and the sorority going back and forth pranking each other. Rogen and Byrne report them to the university’s administration, so to get back at them, the sorority steals all of their belongings and sells them (?). The filmmakers obviously assume that no one watching this is trying to solve any of these elementary conflicts themselves. Instead, they just keep piling on a series of unrealistic events where nobody is rational at all, and we’re supposed to laugh about it.

The movies boasts a couple of nice cameos, which go underutilized for the most part. And the comedy scenes have no real structure or pacing–the takes are all just thrown in there in a seemingly unorganized way.

So if you loved the first film, you’ll probably love this Neighbors 2. If you hated the first film, you probably won’t even consider watching this one. It’s a win-win!

Twizard Rating: 54

Quick Movie Review: Moana (2016)


In recent years it seems like digital animation is becoming more and more advanced with each movie being released. But the changes are gradual and often expected. We talk about how the scenery looks just like a photograph, or how animals look like they could be real. However, actual humanity is the one thing that seems to be taking the longest to become lifelike. This is where Moana comes in.

While still maintaining that cartoon-like feel, this is the first time where actual human characters’ emotions look real. In the past, expressions take on very on-the-nose cliches. Not necessarily over-the-top, but just very obvious. Here, we get facial expressions that look just like yours and mine. It’s eerie. It helps us feel for the characters more–especially when it comes to our title character.

Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) is a teenager growing up on the Polynesian island of Motunui and longs to explore the ocean. However, her father, Chief Tui, forbids her to leave. The one rule they have on the island is that they cannot go beyond the reef. But Moana is stubborn. Even as the island’s resources are running out, she resiliently tries to persuade her father, but to no avail.

Her grandmother gives her a small magical stone known as the heart of the goddess Te Fiti. A thousand years prior, demigod, Maui (Dwayne Johnson), stole the heart, which is causing each island, one by one, to dry up. Moana sets out to find Maui so he can return the heart to the goddess.

Disney churns out a solid formula piece with Moana. This is a criticism in some respect. But it can also work to its advantage. The general storyline doesn’t really give us any sort of new beats. A girl sets off to do something that we all know she will probably end up accomplishing. We foresee each false victory before it occurs. It starts out predictable and pulls from countless of its Disney predecessors. But it does one thing that’s very unusual for a Disney film–it lacks romance of any kind. The two protagonists–of opposite sex–have a strictly platonic relationship. Love isn’t the point of the film at all. It’s so ingrained in our expectations that it catches us off guard and we are constantly reminding ourselves that the movie isn’t about that.

Moana is a captivating protagonist. Whether or not the writing makes her that way. The animation is just that good. There is one musical sequence where they backdrop the characters against a relatively primitive animated background, which has become an ordinary device used in countless films before. But upon looking at the canvas, it almost seems like it has been thrown into a live-action film. In past instances, there wasn’t as much of a discrepancy, but now the juxtaposition shows just how far we’ve come with animation.

I could gush for paragraphs about the visuals of this movie. But that would only end up overshadowing the film’s other strength–its music.

Lin-Manuel Miranda writes some brilliantly catchy songs–perhaps the best, pound-for-pound, in recent Disney musical history. From the refreshingly bright islandy “Where You Are” to the macabre Bowie-inspired “Shiny”, each track hits hard and becomes addicting. All except for Maui’s solo piece, “You’re Welcome.” It’s Dwayne Johnson’s only song and is marginal at best. The others are creative and take melodic turns that you never expect, but this one falls into the basic realm of uninspired, perhaps best appreciated by your toddler child. It merely goes through the motions, and only appears worse amidst its brilliant companions.

The songs may be fantastic, but the dialogue is curiously weak, and unfortunately separates Moana from the past Disney bunch. At times it feels like it was written by a teenager–or perhaps someone who wanted to sound like one. The comedy gets childish in a couple of instances, though, to its credit, quickly snaps back. Then there’s Maui’s character, who can grate on you a bit. His shtick is a little too colloquial and his jokes often fall flat.

But the film heads in the right direction overall. Often times going one step back and two steps forward. It nicely sticks to its narrative with Moana’s perspective, and never seems to be challenged by it.

The story could have been merely a device to flex its aesthetic guns (it’s not), but it would have all been worth it just to experience the beauty of what’s on screen. Here, the movie isn’t just telling a story, but creating a full experience–something unexpectedly rare these days.

Twizard Rating: 92


Quick Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)


I’m not the type of moviegoer who likes to know much about a film’s premise prior to going to see it–especially a franchise film. With Star Wars it’s never really mattered in the past, since they fill you in during their famous opening crawl sequences. Unfortunately, Rogue One does not contain one of these. It was probably a conscious decision, since the film isn’t technically part of the main Star Wars series. But it’s in canon. It’s very closely tied in, and helps catalyze paramount events in Episode IV, so maybe they should have filled us in a bit.

They don’t. Because of this we spend the better part of the first hour playing catch-up. We find out that Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, is the orphaned daughter of the main scientist who acquiescently created the Death Star. However, he’s also secretly created a way for it to be destroyed (which clears up a lot of confusion I’ve held on to over the years).

As a young adult, Jyn is picked up by a Rebel officer, Cassian (Diego Luna)–a character mirroring a similar role to Han Solo, but not as good. He’s dry, unfunny, and uninteresting. He is, however, accompanied by a humorous droid, K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), who gives us some of the only humor throughout the film.

The lack of humor isn’t actually a bad thing. It never tries to replicate the modern humor that Marvel films have now popularized. It almost feels like a product of the 70s and 80s. Taking place immediately before Episode IV, the film does a great job of keeping that era’s technology in tact, so not to make it feel like it couldn’t fit in chronologically.

Aesthetically it’s very pleasing. We get some genuinely amazing shots throughout the film, which may at times be mistaken for a brisk narrative.

Other than the new droid and a blind warrior, Chirrut (Donnie Yen), who uses the force to win battles against Stormtroopers, we don’t get any new iconic characters to gush over. But I guess there is no need for them since this is a standalone film.

Another issue is our lack of interest towards the two main characters. Chirrut, who is a support character, is far more compelling than Jyn or Cassian. It doesn’t help that I was unclear of Jyn’s name for half of the film. I was detached. It’s like the writers realize that this is won’t be made into a series and forget that character development is allowed to exist over the course of one film. After all, Obi-Wan Kenobi dies in the first movie (spoiler alert?).

As nebulous as the first act may be, it pales in comparison to the 30 minute battle scene towards the end. It’s boring and far from captivating. But surprisingly, the film finishes brilliantly, and we appreciate again the fact that this is a standalone movie.

If you’re expecting something as jaw dropping as last year’s The Force Awakens, don’t get your hopes up. Rogue One isn’t a bad movie by any means. It’s just not undeniably good, either. People will think it’s better than it is because they want it to be, but it is what it is–a film for Star Wars completists. True fans. But with this new wave of Star Wars films being cranked out at an annual rate, I suppose it’s okay for them to toy around with spinoff stories like this.

Twizard Rating: 87



Quick Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

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A lot has changed since the first Harry Potter film was released in 2001. Heck, a lot has changed since the LAST Harry Potter film was released in 2011. The franchise helped change our modern interpretation of what a film series can be. And this prequel spin-off is proof of that. While this isn’t a Harry Potter movie, it’s part of the same world.

In the 15 years since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, blockbuster films have become consistently good. Critically acclaimed. It’s not just popcorn entertainment anymore–we have higher expectations. And as the blockbusters strive for the quality of the more highbrow indie offerings being nominated for Oscars, they begin resembling them in a way.

The Harry Potter films, especially the first few, had a sort of snappy storytelling to them. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them does not. It’s much slower like the later films in the previous series. Yet, the difference is, this is the setup to the next four films. By the time we got to the last few Harry Potter movies, we weren’t exactly looking for a brisk narrative. And I was hoping for this in Fantastic Beasts–albeit, probably unrealistically.

Set in 1926, an English wizard, Newt (Eddie Redmayne), comes to America for McGuffin-like reasons (and unclear, at that). He gets into some trouble as some of the fantastic beasts escape from the suitcase where he’s keeping them. As this is happening, he gets mixed in with a normal non-magical human, Jacob (Dan Fogler).

Other assorted things happen that are appealing to the audience. We get to go inside this magical suitcase and see dozens of unique creatures in this new expanded universe. It’s really cool and aesthetically pleasing.

The movie is long and not enough happens to truly justify it. Instead of using the time to thoroughly explain some of the overarching story lines, the filmmakers spend it drawing things out. Perhaps because they feel like they have to.

Don’t get me wrong, the film is great. It’s thoroughly enjoyable. It does most of the things a good film should do. While the storytelling isn’t quick, it’s still very even.

This is what director David Yates is good at, as evident in the last four Harry Potter films he directed. Though Fantastic Beasts is missing the magical world that is Hogwarts, Yates knows how to bring alive New York City in the ’20s and make it feel magical.

You will most likely enjoy Fantastic Beasts. If for no other reason than the fact that it’s the ingress back into the beloved world of Harry Potter.And Easter eggs are scattered all around. Just don’t go into it with the same expectations as its predecessors.

Twizard Rating: 93

Quick Movie Review: Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life (2016)


As I’ve said a thousand times before, the lack of live-action comedies for the younger members of our society saddens me. In the ’90s, when I grew up, you couldn’t get away from them. It was awesome. But nowadays, pre-teens’ only options for movies are of the superhero variety. Or some other big budget franchise. Unless they merely want to watch animated films with characters that aren’t human. And I’m not knocking computer animation. It’s just that during a time when empathy is getting further and further away, it’s nice for kids to see “tangible” characters that they can actually relate to.

And there have been some good live-action options for kids semi-lately. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, for example, was perfect. But many others dumb themselves down for children. And when this happens, you lose the parents as well.

Middle School isn’t like that. It’s full of quality humor and an engaging storyline that will find both kids and adults laughing out loud–the latter might even be surprised with how much they like it.

The film follows Rafe (Griffin Gluck), a middle schooler who’s been inexplicably kicked out of his previous two schools. His active imagination, along with problems with authority, get him into trouble. Especially at his new school, where the principal (Andrew Daly) acts as a warden, creating asinine rules. The kids aren’t allowed to talk in the hallways, wear colorful clothes, or even draw pictures.

Rafe isn’t having any of this nonsense and wages a war with his principal in a Home Alone-type of way. It’s highly entertaining seeing what he comes up with and how his life progresses with those around him, including his best friend, Leo (Thomas Barbusca), his sister Georgia (Alexa Nisenson), and his cool insouciant teacher, Mr. Teller (Adam Pally).

And with the quality talents of Rob Riggle, who plays Rafe’s borderline-abusive future stepfather, and Daly, Middle School has humor for young and old.

Yeah, the script has some issues with a couple of jarring tonal shifts, but it also refreshingly surprises us when we least expect it.

I have a hard time knocking a film that does its job. It never talks down to kids–in fact, it gets kids all too well. There isn’t some over-exaggeration of how much they use their phones. Even the banter feels lifelike. It speaks to adolescents who are at that “middle” stage between childhood and responsibility-hood. It’s a fun time that most of us took for granted. But Middle School pleasantly brings us back so we can live it over again with Rafe–in a stunningly committed first-person narrative.

This film isn’t just going through the motions, folks. There’s a lot of genuine intent throughout. Plot points and jokes that are obviously very well meditated upon. While sitting and watching this movie, I legitimately thought to myself, “This isn’t just a moneymaker for them–they actually want it to be good.”

Even if it were among the other classic live-action kid films of yesteryear, I would still go out of my way to watch it. I wish I had this movie when I was growing up. But at least I have it now.

Twizard Rating: 89