A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Although the movie is intended to entertain rather than educate, kids may get a feel for what school is like.
Teamwork and friendship -- across age groups -- are prominent themes. As is standing up to bullies, believing in yourself, kindness -- even if you yourself have not received any -- responsibility, and understanding that we all get older. Kids ask themselves "what's in it for me?" but this is largely played for laughs.
Positive Role Models
The main group of fourth graders are all likable and display different positive character traits. They look out for each other and are also shown befriending and, at times, defending the kindergarteners. They sometimes show a cheeky and disruptive side, which occasionally drifts into bullying territory. The kindergarten kids are continuously in a wild state. They kidnap the older kids and hold them hostage after one of them convinces them all that "big kids are bad." But eventually they realize that the older kids are their friends not enemies.
The main group of kids have a good balance of diversity in terms of gender, race, and body shape. The same can be said of the supporting characters. However, some of the characters play up to stereotypes, such as the "nerdy" kid wearing glasses and always being found with their head in a book and the larger kid being last pick for a race. That said, some of these stereotypes are challenged, such as the toughest kid in the gang being a girl. The kindergarten kids are portrayed as being feral. They wear headdresses and face paint both of which could be interpreted as being culturally insensitive.
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Violence & Scariness
A group of fourth graders are captured by a group of kindergarten kids via various booby traps -- kids are seen hanging upside down from trees and trapped down purpose-built holes. Some concern amongst a group of friends when the first of these fourth graders goes missing. They are then kept in a small wooden cage and later tied up to a climbing frame, and poked and hit with sticks. Kids are pushed against walls and held up by the collars of their t-shirts. Some instances of bullying in the schoolyard. Bigger kids use their size to intimidate and overpower smaller kids. Some pushing, shoving, and jumping on each other. Also a food fight.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A teacher appears to be reading some erotic fiction, saying the line "his well-muscled arms" out loud.
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Some instances of name calling including a larger kid being called "tubby" and "fat," and another a "little runt." Also "crummy," "yucky," "poop poop," "jeez," "brat," "rodent," "darn," and "savages." A character's name is "Stinky."
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Products & Purchases
Kids bet chocolate bars on the outcome of a school race.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A teacher excitedly pulls out a jar of pills and says it's time for their "medication."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Recess: All Growed Down is the enjoyable third spin-off movie from the popular TV series and features plenty of positive messages alongside some instances of bullying. The movie consists of three of the TV episodes merged together with a new story that involves T.J. (voiced by Myles Jeffrey) and his fellow fourth-grader friends being held captive by the kindergarteners. Kids are caught by a variety of booby traps and are seen hanging upside down from trees and trapped down holes. Despite the kidnapping plot, the movie remains playful and never sinister. T.J. and his friends convince the kindergarteners that they are not their enemies by retelling stories about when they all used to play together. These stories include instances of the older kids looking out for the kindergarteners, which occasionally involves standing up to bullies. Some of the bullying includes body shaming and name calling, with a larger kid being called "fat" and "tubby." The victims of the bullying usually prove their worth, however, coming out on top. Kids bet chocolate bars on a school race. There are some jokes intended for older audiences, which although will probably go other most kids' heads, do seem a little out of place. This incudes a teacher reading some erotic fiction and also gleefully pulling out some pills and saying it's time for her "medication." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This Disney direct-to-video animation is another welcome addition to the series. Recess: All Growed Down is the third movie featuring the Recess gang, following its successful TV run. The film is a compilation of three previously aired episodes -- told via flashback -- intertwined with a new story that centers around the kidnapping of fourth grader T.J. and his five friends. If that sounds somewhat sinister, don't worry. The kidnappers are in fact all from kindergarten and this setup enables the film to play out is list of positive messages about friendship, standing up to bullies, and understanding that we all get older. The premise works well and the kids are never under any serious threat. It also provides an amusing Apocalypse Now narration that will amuse adults familiar with the film.
As with previous Recess outings, playground politics and the school hierarchy are all on display. While these often play up to stereotypes -- the nerdy kid is all glasses and books, while the larger kid is last to be picked for the running race -- they, for the most part, are all challenged. The interweaving of the three episodes with the new story loses its way a little in the final act. But by that point, T.J. and the rest of the Recess crew have once again proved to be good company.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.