Adventures in Public School

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Adventures in Public School Movie Poster Image
Comedy about awkward teen and his mom; cursing, sex, drugs.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 86 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Famous people affect us far less than those who are close to us. It's better to have a caring and influential grandmother as your role model than some Pulitzer Prize winner. When a mother decides to help her teenage child rebel by rebelling with him, it misses the point that teenage rebellion is generally against parents and the establishment they represent. Sometimes the outcome is best when you don't get what you think you wanted most.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A loving mother intrudes into her son's personal life in her effort to keep him to herself, but eventually out of a desire to do what's best for him, she loosens her grip. The son is devoted to the mom, but wants to love her as a grown-up rather than as her prisoner.  


A jealous boyfriend punches another guy in the face.



Liam falls into lust with a pretty blond student with one leg; they kiss. School principal pursues Liam's mother romantically. Discussion of what people's faces look like during sex; a girl mimics what her "sex face" looks like for a boy and he breathes heavily for her. Mom of a home-schooled child confesses to mom of another that just standing next to a man for a few seconds is the closest she's come to sex in a long time. Claire intrudes into Liam's privacy, asks him if he's thinking about sex. A mom instructing her young son on condom use cautions him to never "go into battle without one of those on his penis." A youth kisses the drunk mother of a girl he knows. A mom outlines the difference between the wimpy implications of the word "p---y" and its literal reference to female genitalia. A teenager is used to seeing his mother naked in the tub (no nudity is shown). Texts between teens refer to the girl getting "wet."



"C--ksucker," "f--k," "s--t," "t-ts," "balls," "testicles," "whore," "d--k," "ass," "damn," "sodomy," and "p---y."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

To keep her sheltered teenage son from going wild on drugs and alcohol when he leaves home, a mom drinks liquor and beer with him and smokes marijuana with him.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Adventures in Public School is a comic look at a bright, coddled, homeschooled high school senior. He adores his overbearing mother yet yearns to break away gently. He insists on attending public school, "an institution for low expectations," according to mom, where she believes the presence of attractive females will distract him from his destiny to become a Cambridge University student in astronomy. Mom teaches him to curse (expect to hear "f--k," "p---y," and "c--ksucker," among other words), feeds him alcohol, shares a joint with him, encourages practice time with condoms, and takes him to a frat party to make up for the years she kept him isolated and innocent. He manages to become more outgoing and even to kiss a girl. A jealous boyfriend punches him in the face, but the movie is generally lighthearted while simultaneously aware of how alcohol, drugs, and sex can be dangerous when in the hands of irresponsible minors.

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What's the story?

ADVENTURES IN PUBLIC SCHOOL is what Liam (Daniel Doheny) wants to have. Around 18, bright and homeschooled by his obsessive mother, Claire (Judy Greer), Liam has been sheltered from bullying, drugs, gangs, and supposedly low IQ classmates, but he's also been denied friends and romance. Claire has made Liam's education her obsessive priority and plans for him to ace his high school equivalency exam, after which she'll accompany him to Cambridge University to study astronomy.  But when he breezes through the test, he sees an attractive girl named Anastasia (Siobhan Williams), who has only one leg, and falls immediately into lust. He erases all his right answers and forces Mom to enroll him at school. The principal only has room if he takes the place of a student named Maria, who is out due to illness. Liam uses her student ID card, answers "here" when Maria's name is called at attendance, and takes over her classes and abandoned projects, which gives the movie its slightly absurdist bent. He breaks away from Mom enough to kiss a girl, lose her, and then learn that she was probably not the right one for him.

Is it any good?

This is a charming, funny piece that makes you laugh as much as it makes you cringe. Adventures in Public School adores the mother who has poured all of her love and soul into raising a great kid on her own, but it also acknowledges how absurdly clinging and over-protective she is. Judy Greer aptly makes Claire both worrisome and lovable, showing us all the ways her good intentions sometimes wander beyond the borders of good sense, but also why Claire still comes up on the better side of parenting most of the time. Daniel Doheny is perfectly awkward, goofy, and adventurous as the somewhat stunted Liam. It's a tribute to his performance that we actually see Liam grow and mature as the movie progresses. Teens will cringe at him and root for him at the same time.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the comic effect of the mother in Adventures in Public School who wants to be too close to her son, but also wants him to grow up and be successful and happy. Sometimes she seems to know that she goes too far. What are some instances where she doesn't recognize this early enough?

  • Why does Liam finally get angry enough at his mother to put the door to his room back up? How does his mother overstep usual boundaries between parents and maturing children?

  • Do you know anyone who has been homeschooled? What are the benefits and challenges of learning at home?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age tales

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