Australian Council on Children and the Media

Middle school: The worst years of my life

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Not recommended under 10; parental guidance 10 to 13 (Themes; Coarse language)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Middle school: The worst years of my life
  • a review of Middle school: The worst years of my life completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 16 January 2017.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not recommended due to themes and coarse language
Children aged 10 to 13 Parental guidance recommended due to themes
Children 13 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Middle school: The worst years of my life
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes and coarse language
Length 92 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life is a film based on the novel by best-selling author James Patterson. It follows the entertaining journey of young Rafe Katchadorian (Griffin Gluck), a student who transfers in the middle of the year to a new school after having been expelled from several others. After meeting the excessively strict and rule-driven principal Ken Dwight (Andy Daly), he begins to doubt whether his experience will be a positive one.

While Rafe is sketching during a school assembly, Dwight notices and reacts by destroying his entire sketchbook of work. Determined to seek revenge, Rafe and his friend Leo together decide that they should metaphorically destroy Principal Dwight’s own book of documented rules and regulations by repeatedly misbehaving and thus breaking every rule. They proceed with multiple pranks that garner attention and appreciation from other students.

After Dwight attempts to frame several students for the pranks by placing false evidence in their lockers, Rafe eventually confesses to being responsible and is expelled from the school. Rafe now becomes more determined than ever to publicly denounce the principal for his unethical behaviour.

 

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Middle school; power and authority; grief and loss; friendship and relationships; parenting

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is very mild violence in the film, including:

  • Animated/cartoon violence of sketched characters using weapons such as guns – they can shoot things and cause small light explosions.
  • A very young girl drives a car illegally, and proceeds to unintentionally damage it.
  • A character has a large amount of manure dumped over them as part of a prank.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

Nothing of concern apart from the violence mentioned above

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

It is revealed late in the film that Rafe’s friend Leo is actually his younger brother, who is dead. This may confuse or worry children in this age group.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Some younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by the revellation that Leo is actually Rafe's dead younger brother.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing of concern for this age group

Product placement

There is some product placement within the film, including:

  • Social media networks such as Facebook and Instagram
  • Sporting brands, including Nike and Adidas
  • Apple products
  • BMW

Sexual references

There are very mild sexual references, including:

  • A female character described as ‘hot’ .

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some mild sexual activity, including:

  • Two adult characters kiss.
  • There is a brief kiss between two teenagers.

Use of substances

Social drinking by adults while dining out at a restaurant.

 

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  •  ‘what the hell’; ‘oh my god’; ‘crap’; ‘butt’; ‘pissed off’; ‘frickin’
  • insults such as ‘doofus’, ‘buttwipe’, ‘jerk’, ‘loser’

In a nutshell

Middle school: The worst years of my life is an inspiring coming-of-age comedy based on a best-selling book. It demonstrates the importance of fighting for what one believes to be right. The film follows Rafe as he breaks the rigid and unnecessarily strict rules set down by the school principal with purpose and intent. The film makes clear that Rafe struggles against the oppressive influence of Dwight, whilst still understanding the importance of taking responsibility and accepting that his actions may have unintended negative consequences. It shows the power that individuals can achieve by taking action where others may have stood on the sidelines. The movie further highlights the importance of strong and supportive relationships in overcoming challenges that may arise. 

The film’s themes and subject matter (and, for some parents, coarse language) make it more suited to older children who can relate to the school experiences, and there is plenty for parents to discuss with tweens and teens. It is not recommended for children under 10, with parental guidance recommended for the 10 to 13 age group.

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