Bruno and Boots: This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Bruno and Boots: This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall Movie Poster Image
Prep schoolers play pranks in high-spirited tween comedy.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 90 minutes

Parents say

Not yet rated

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational value

Meant to entertain rather than educate.

Positive messages

Change can be both difficult and good. Friends and loyalty mean everything.

Positive role models & representations

Bruno's default mode is scheming and pranking. He'd rather find a way to play a trick on someone than study, and his penchant for involving all his friends in his plans tends to get them in trouble. Boots is a loyal friend who tempers Bruno's impulses.

Violence & scariness

An African king sends uniformed troops to "rescue" his son, the young prince, who ran away to have fun at Macdonald Hall. Rival students put pudding in Bruno and Boots' lacrosse helmets. Others spike the water with hot sauce.

Sexy stuff

A young scientist's specimen of skunk pheromones causes multitudes of local skunks to congregate in the dorms, presumably to mate.



Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bruno and Boots: This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall is a Canadian comedy aimed at tweens and is based on the Bruno and Boots young adult book series by popular Canadian author Gordon Korman. Youthful hijinks and scheming are the main preoccupation of a cast of quirky students at a seemingly prim Canadian boys' boarding school, which is presided over by a frustrated but kind headmaster. His frustration leads him to separate the title characters, two of the biggest pranksters. A young prince from a far-off nation has been observing the school's fun-filled atmosphere online and runs away from home, setting off an international incident that threatens the school's survival. Students range from junior high to high school, but no sex, language, or drug use is displayed. Language includes "nuts." A young scientist's specimen of skunk pheromones causes multitudes of local skunks to congregate in the dorms, presumably to mate.

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What's the story?

Bruno, of BRUNO AND BOOTS: THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING AT MACDONALD HALL, has a brain that can't stop churning out elaborate plans to solve mundane problems. The plans tend to involve unlikely ploys such as dressing up to impersonate board members. His roommate, Boots, assists, and the results often get both called to Headmaster Sturgeon's office for a scolding. But Sturgeon (Peter Keleghan) has had enough. He counsels that growing up means coping with change, and he splits the best friends up, assigning each to other roommates. Bruno's plan is to be so difficult that their new roommates will beg for a roommate change. At the same time, a foreign prince runs away from home to come to the school, nearly setting off an international incident. Soon the neighboring girls' school is ousted from their damaged home and must share Macdonald Hall with the unwelcoming boys. All of that leads to an internal prank war between the girls and boys that nearly results in Sturgeon's firing, until Bruno steps in with a plan to save his job.  

Is it any good?

This Bruno and Boots is a mildly amusing comedy, a step up from the series' earlier installment, Bruno and Boots: Go Jump in the Pool. The same cast, by now seemingly having an even better time working together than in the previous movie, are more at home in their roles. The mugging and overacting of the first movie has settled down, making this over-the-top comedy easier to enjoy. As in the previous installment, Peter Keleghan, in a role that requires seriousness and silliness, is delightful as the school's earnest, sweet headmaster and Caroline Rhea as Miss Scrimmage, the touchy-feely headmistress of the nearby girls' school, is a satisfying foil, occasionally coaxing the resistant Sturgeon into bursts of spontaneity. When a dance is suggested to promote friendship between the girls' and boys' schools, the headmaster objects to what he calls "movement" and "co-mingling," a "forced gathering meant to prevent enmity." Yet Miss Scrimmage gets him to boogie down nevertheless.

Jonny Gray as Bruno remains an energetic and likable performer in This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall. From the bacon-and-cheddar smoothies Bruno likes to the wealthy roommate whose quarters look more like the stock exchange than a dorm suite, plenty of imaginative oddities add up to make this a decent fictional take on over-privileged prep school life. You can tell this is all a complete fantasy, as none of the kids spend their waking hours staring into cell phones.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way Bruno makes crazy plans to address simple problems, and how he manages to persuade his friends that these elaborate plots will be effective solutions. Do his plans work in Bruno and Boots: This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall? Would you follow Bruno into one of his schemes? Why or why not?

  • Have you read the books the movie is based on? How does the movie compare?

  • Would you want to go to boarding school? Why or why not?

Movie details

For kids who love school stories

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