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Recess: Taking The Fifth Grade
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade features a main character who refuses to go to school to protest changes at the outset of the year that make it less fun until his demands are met. There's minor name-calling such as "freaks," "babies," "stupid," or "punks," a precarious near-fall from a roof, and some mild bullying that mostly involves exclusion, but the main characters work to divert those forces for the greater good. Otherwise it's a fast-paced, hyper-smart, and refreshingly gentle size-up of the politics and power plays of middle school that features smart, diverse kids and adults who are a tad oblivious but eventually come around to seeing things from the kid's perspective. Perfect for the age it dramatizes.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
T.J. (Myles Jeffrey) and his friends are starting a new year, fifth grade, and they're excited about upcoming Halloween, which has them thinking back to all the great stuff that came along with the beginning of the year: pizza, recess, new teacher Mrs. Milkey. But as they hit the campus on the first day of school, they learn that pizza has been replaced with nutritional paste, recess has been paved over, and Mrs. Milkey has been transferred out. Now it's up to them to fight for the old amenities and their right to have school not be such a crummy place, making the school better for everyone. Back in the present day, some kids fret over whether they're too old to still trick-or-treat on Halloween, or if it's still OK to participate in a holiday they're told is for "babies."
Is it any good?
RECESS: TAKING THE FIFTH GRADE is a clever, funny rumination on the pitfalls and privileges of fifth grade. It's drawn in the early 2000s animation style of King of the Hill or today's Bob's Burgers but appropriate to the age it dramatizes. The humor and politics of middle school still hold up here. There are cliques and negotiations along grade lines, as well as mild bullying and exclusion tactics, but many such situations are upended for unexpected resolutions that show a diverse group of kids acting benevolently; looking out for each other, particularly little ones; and looking to include everyone. Plus, there's an emphasis on positivity and standing up for what's right, which is not only the respect of everyone but also everyone's innate right to have fun and act his or her age.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about standing up for what you believe in. How do the characters here do that? Why does it work out for them? Have you ever tried to protest something you disagreed with? If so, what happened?
How do the characters handle bullying? What seems to work to shut down the bullies in these scenes? How does your school teach you to deal with bullying? Does this film portray it accurately? Why, or why not?
How do these characters treat the kids younger than them? Can you think of other shows where kids are nice to kids younger than them or outside their cliques? Do you have younger kids at your school? How are they treated?
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.