School of Life
By Andrea Beach,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Dramedy about loss has positive messages, mature themes.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
We don't have a lot of time, so take your shot when you have the chance, make each moment count, and do one thing every day that scares you. When someone gives you something, they give you a little part of themselves that can stay with you forever. If school is the Star Wars universe and students and teachers are Jedis, then the evil empire you must overcome is believing you have limitations. Courage and perseverance are important themes.
Positive Role Models
Mr. D is the teacher we all wish we had: funny, engaging, and creative. He really connects with his students and makes each one feel respected and important. He doesn't shy away from helping them with social skills and manages to correct students without humiliating them. He's also shown distributing blankets to the homeless on a rainy night. Mr. Warner is jealous of Mr. D and lacks creativity and engagement in the classroom. But he cares very much about his students and family and eventually finds his own reasons for teaching, lets go of his jealousy, and becomes a much-loved teacher. Mrs. Warner is a loving and supportive wife and mom who's shown once talking on her cell phone while driving. Dylan only thinks about how things affect him but starts to grow out of that. He learns to overcome his shyness and how to keep working at something until he succeeds.
Violence & Scariness
A man collapses, speaks a few last words, and dies. There's no gore. One punch in the face. Spoiler alert: A major character has a terminal illness and dies.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Married adults kiss in bed while wearing pajamas. Two teachers and two tweens kiss briefly.
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"Ass," "bastards," "piss off," "hell," "Christ," "jackass," "trample on your nuts." A car with "bitch boy" spray-painted on the side is prominent in a few scenes. The middle-finger gesture once; some body-part humor, such as a boy mimicking having breasts.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults have champagne; at night a teacher drinks from an indistinct bottle that could be beer or soda.
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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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School of Life
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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?
How do the characters in School of Life demonstrate courage and perseverance? Why are these important character strength?
- 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
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: Language, brief sensuality, rude humor
- Last updated: December 27, 2022
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