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Back to School (La Grande Classe)

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Back to School (La Grande Classe) Movie Poster Image
Bawdy French reunion tale has language, sex, drugs.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 83 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The long-term impact of bullies and bullying is at the core of the movie, including the danger of becoming a bully as a way to revenge past hurts. Be yourself. Take pride in your accomplishments and your friendships. Don't define yourself through the eyes of others. Values promoted: forgiveness, empathy, and self confidence.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main characters have been damaged by their victimization at the hands of middle school bullies. Only at the film's conclusion do they resolve their issues, forgive, and fully move forward with their lives. In the meantime, they lose sight of their own ethics and behave as badly as their tormentors. Homosexuality is the butt of jokes; others defend gay folks. Fat shaming. Ethnic diversity.

Violence

Action (much of it slapstick) includes: scuffling, bullying, vandalism of car, gang menace, threats of violence (including with a knife). No injuries. 

Sex

Sexual references, jokes, conversations (masturbation, oral sex, homosexuality). Kissing (same sex, opposite sex -- some of it exaggeratedly messy. A couple is seen having sex through an open doorway (no nudity). 

Language

Top to bottom raunchiness: all manner of profanity (i.e., "f--k," "s--t," "d--k," "fag," "bastard," "c--k") and other vulgarities (i.e., a dog poop gag, "blow job," "crappers," "testicles," "get laid," middle finger salute, peeing on car, male organs are sketched).

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Much drinking and drunkenness; hash and marijuana are ingested.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that aka Back to School (aka La Grande Classe) is a French slapstick comedy with English subtitles about two successful tech entrepreneurs who go to their middle school reunion to get back at the bullies who tormented them. It's a movie filled with exaggerated characters, over-the-top situations, and crude behavior as 30-something adults revert to juvenile high jinx and raunchiness. Language and sight gags are coarse throughout: insults ("nerd," "fag"), obscenities ("d--k," "c--k, "f--k"), cursing ("s--t," "bastard"), along with talk about masturbation, oral sex, and slurs about homosexuality (others refute those slurs). Kissing (same sex, opposite sex, and sloppy) occurs; a fully-clothed couple is glimpsed having sex through an open door. Drugs and alcohol take center stage in numerous scenes: shots, drunkenness, hashish, marijuana. Despite the crassness of the film, there are some astute notions about redemption, forgiveness, and being one's authentic self.

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What's the story?

Pierre-Yves (Ludovik) and Jonathan (Jerome Niel) haven't even finished celebrating the success of their digital strategy business when they discover that their middle school is having a reunion in BACK TO SCHOOL (aka LA GRANDE CLASSE). Always the victims of class bully Lopez and his gang of misanthropes, the two men eagerly return to their hometown to lord it over those who plagued them, and taunt their classmates with their achievements. Old scores will be settled; long-remembered affairs of the heart may be renewed. Of course, nothing goes as planned. A key mistaken identity, run-ins with old rivals who are eager to pick up where they left off, and a series of scary confrontations make them wish they'd never come back.

Is it any good?

In this alternately farcical and insightful movie, Chess Club Nerds meet the Cool Knuckleheads again -- and sadly all of them have lived up to the expectations that defined them when they were kids. Back to Schoola hybrid of raucous, intoxicated/stoned behavior and sexual jokes combined with an astute look at "grown-ups" who've aged 20 years without maturing, is a reminder of adolescence at its worst. However, by the story's end some of the characters have at least a modicum of awareness. Netflix offers a "dubbed" English translation of the movie, as well as the preferred subtitled version.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the drinking and drug use in Back to School. Is it glamorized? Are there consequences for the behavior? 

  • The danger of pigeon-holing young kids in school is explored in the movie. How did "labeling" impact the adult lives of Herve and the other Dragons? Pierre Yves and Jonathan?

  • A character in the movie states: "Jealousy is the burden of smart kids." What does that mean? Describe any examples of this concept you may have witnessed or been a part of.

  • Were you surprised by the final shot in the movie? How did it deepen the film's messages?

Movie details

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