Rafe Khatchadorian (Griffin Gluck) has an epic imagination and a slight problem with authority. Both collide when he transfers to a middle school where students are expected to follow the rules. This doesn’t sit well with Rafe. With help from his new friend Leo (Thomas Barbusca), the mischievous lad concocts schemes to drive his tyrannical Principal Dwight (Andy Daly) crazy while also using his charm and wits to impress a girl named Jeanne (Isabela Moner) and battle the bullies.
Another film based on a book I haven’t read but I have an excuse this time since I am not a kid anymore (and I haven’t been for a long time). That doesn’t matter since you’ve seen this one before. An outcast goes to a new school, he doesn’t get along with the authority, he concocts a scheme to take it on, and you can probably figure out the rest. That’s not necessarily a terrible thing which will probably work fine with kids but may leave anyone else bored and/or wanting more.
To be more specific, at least to those who haven’t read the book, Rafe Khatchadorian (Gluck), has a mighty imagination but does not get along with authority. Because of that, he has been transferred to the last school willing to accept him. Unfortunately for him, it happens to be a school where students are expected to follow the many ridiculous of its principal Dwight (Daly). Of course these rules don’t sit well with Rafe once he learns that creativity is forbidden causing Dwight to destroy his storied sketchbook. In order to get back at him, he and his friend Leo (Barbusca) decide to break every one of Dwight’s rules.
So again, nothing new but the only real thing that distinguishes this one is the film’s use of Rafe’s imagination in that his many drawings come to life in surprisingly entertaining animated sequences. While they main plot consists of Rafe trying to undermine Dwight’s rules, there are many more things going on. Not only does Rafe have to deal with Dwight, he and his sister Georgia (Alexa Nisenson) also have to deal with her single mother Jules’ (Lauren Graham) new self-absorbed boyfriend Carl (Rob Riggle) who doesn’t like kids, obviously. This led to some fun exchanges between the three.
The film also had its heavier moments which were kind of surprising in that Rafe lost a younger brother to cancer and he and his family are still not over it, causing his father to leave. This subplot was kind of weird when compared to the rest of the film because it didn’t fit. This was just mentioned in passing and then loomed over the family for the rest of the film. Rafe was not the only one invested in undermining Dwight’s rules as his attempts also caught the attention of a like-minded girl named Jeanne (Moner). She was running for student council president and wanted to eliminate the rules. Rafe had a connection with her the moment they met as she served as a motivation for his plan.
While the trailer promised a series of fun pranks while Rafe attempted to break the rules. The film wasn’t as fun as the trailer implied. Maybe it was because of all the extra stuff the film threw in but the tone felt a little off. The pranks we did get were kind of fun and the better ones were in the trailers, the problem was that there weren’t enough of them. The film hinted at around 100 rules and obviously they couldn’t show all of them being broken but a few more would have been nice. Being a kids film, the way it goes about these are very contrived but kids probably won’t notice. The kids pretty much get away with everything and the parents never figure out what’s going on. Without giving anything away, the film also features an unnecessary twist.
The acting was good all around with Gluck being likeable as Rafe. His chemistry with Nisenson and Graham made them great to watch. Nisenson was fun as Georgia, not acting her age. Graham was good despite being a cliche mom character. Adam Pally was good as the cool teacher, Mr. Teller. Daly and Riggle were doing what they do best which is being the kinds of guys you love to hate. Daly had some great lines while reacting to what was happening and was fun to watch. Efren Ramirez stole scenes as Gus, the school janitor.
Overall, this was a kind of fun, derivative kids film with some decent laughs and performances which should entertain kids but the tone slightly took away from the fun.