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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that School of Life is a made-for-TV movie with lots of positive messages about making the most of the time we have, taking chances, and having a lasting impact. Spoiler alert: It's a terminal-illness movie, and a major character dies. Neither death nor the illness are explored, but how to be a positive influence and appreciate what time we have together are important themes; a couple of scenes take place in a hospital, and the patient is briefly shown receiving chemotherapy. There's some strong language such as "ass" and "bitch." A student who stutters is frequently mocked by a classmate, but others defend him and teachers correct the bully.
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What's the story?
In SCHOOL OF LIFE, when new teacher Mr. D'Angelo (Ryan Reynolds) arrives at Fallbrook Middle School, his unorthodox and creative teaching style quickly make him a favorite of students and faculty alike -- except for Mr. Warner (David Paymer), who finally thought it was his year to win the coveted Teacher of the Year award. For Dylan Warner (Andrew Robb), it can be embarrassing enough to have your dad teach at your school, but when Mr. Warner's jealousy starts to drive him over the edge, Dylan's sure his chances with the girl he likes are over for good. Mr. Warner is determined to discover Mr. D's secret, but can he also find a better reason to teach than winning an award?
Is it any good?
This drama's heart is in the right place, and it offers a lot of positive messages, inspiring role models, and even a few laughs. (That is, for families with tweens and up who can handle the occasional strong language and themes involving loss.) Ryan Reynolds is affable and surprisingly understated but lacks real spark or genuine charm. School of Life offers some real, if small, laughs, but some of the dramatic aspects of the story feel forced. The made-for-TV production quality and supporting cast that doesn't quite find the spark add up to a movie that's overall enjoyable, if not nearly as life-changing as it wants to be.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes a good teacher. Who was the best teacher you've ever had? Was he or she like Mr. D. in School of Life?
Have you ever lost a loved one or someone who was important in your life? Do you try to keep their memory alive? How?
What did Mr. D mean about doing one thing each day that scares you? Why would that be good for you? Is there something you'd like to try? What?
- In theaters: February 20, 2002
- On DVD or streaming: January 3, 2006
- Cast: Ryan Reynolds, David Paymer
- Director: William Dear
- Studios: Ginormous Pictures, Bouncing Betty Productions
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models, Middle School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: Language, brief sensuality, rude humor
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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.