A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the jokes in this movie are pretty vulgar for a G rating. T.J. uses the school public address system to make an announcement, pretending to be the principal, and talking about how he scratches his "big, saggy butt" once an hour. T.J.'s parents say they are going to take his temperature with a baby thermometer and some Vaseline (eliciting a few uncomfortable squeals from the audience). T.J. reads aloud from his sister's diary, including dramatic descriptions of teenage romance.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Disney's RECESS: SCHOOL'S OUT! begins as T.J. and his five pals engage in some last-minute hijinks before on the last day of school before summer vacation. T.J. is looking forward to a long, lazy summer with his friends, but finds that all of them are being sent off to enrichment summer programs at various camps. When T.J. sees something suspicious at school, he rounds up the gang to investigate. It seems that there is an evil plot to do away with summer vacation for good, so that students throughout the country will have better test scores. T.J. and his friends have to come up with a plan to rescue the school, the principal, and, most important, the summer.
Is it any good?
This is simply an episode of the popular TV series blown up for the big screen; at best, it's innocuous fun and the show's creators have a gift for remembering details about being a kid. It has higher-quality music (including baby-boomer re-treads like "Born to Be Wild," and "Let the Sun Shine") and more expensive voice talent (James Woods as the bad guy, Robert Goulet for some songs). But the plot, dialogue, and animation are no better than the low standards of Saturday morning television.
Judging by the reaction of the kids in the screening I attended, it is a crowd-pleaser, especially when T.J.'s gang uses the ultimate kid weapons -- water balloons, silly string, etc. -- on the bad guys. The movie, like the show, is racially diverse and has girl characters who are smart, strong, and capable. The kids are loyal to each other and show cooperation and teamwork. On the other hand, the movie assumes that all children and teachers hate school and that there is nothing interesting to learn and no value from education. Adults are ineffectual, uninterested, or dim. And T.J. forces his big sister to help him by threatening to put her diary on the Internet.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about this movie's message that kids should not worry about test scores or the future but should make time to "just be kids." What is important to T.J. and his friends? Why does the tattletale spend all his time trying to get everyone else in trouble? Was it fair for T.J. to take his sister's diary and let his friends read it? Encourage children to talk about their own experiences in school -- and to tell you why they would not want to give up their summer vacation.
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