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Movie Review

The most popular show on "Disney’s One Saturday Morning" television line-up makes its big-screen debut. School’s out and the Recess gang heads in separate directions: Vince to baseball camp, Mikey to music camp, Gretchen to space camp, Gus to military camp and Spinelli to professional wrestling camp. Only T.J. is left at home—bored. That is until he discovers that Dr. Philliam Benedict is using Third Street School in a plot to alter the moon's orbit, freeze the earth and eliminate summer vacation, or as T.J. calls it, "The biggest recess of all." With help from his sister, Becky, T.J. gathers the gang and attempts to foil Benedict’s evil scheme.

positive elements: T.J. and his friends are diverse—ethnically, socially, intellectually and staturely—but they accept each other as they are and benefit from each other’s talents. T.J. says, "You don’t know my friends; they’ll help, you’ll see." And they do. Dr. Benedict tells Principal Prickly that "he’s always standing up for the rights of children." Becky and T.J. make up at the end. Becky even says, "You’re an all right brother, after all." A very pro-teacher ending includes Ms. Finster, the playground monitor, leading the teachers back into the school to save the day. Even the normally curmudgeonly Prickly rediscovers why he became a teacher in the first place: he loves kids.

sexual content: None, unless you count the fact that T.J.’s older sister writes about kissing in her diary.

violent content: Nothing overly scary, but Recess is not violence-free. A military base is taken over and secrets are stolen by Dr. Benedict in the opening scene. Principal Prickly dematerializes when he goes with T.J. to unlock the school (later we find out he’s okay). When Benedict’s lead scientist can’t get the job done, he’s zapped to "detention." A few martial arts, wrestling and ninja scenes. Spinelli is her normal combative self and wants to introduce people to "Madame Fist," so it’s no surprise that she’s the one heading off to wrestling camp.

crude or profane language: Nothing that could be defined as crude or profane, but there are a few references some parents may not want their young children to hear. One reference of "What the heck?" pop up. Becky calls T.J. names, such as "T-jerk." T.J. takes over the school’s public address system in the beginning of the movie and pretends to be the principal, saying, "I have a fat, saggy butt that I like to scratch every hour on the hour."

drug and alcohol content: None.

other negative elements: Passing mentions of T.J. toilet-papering a golf course and forging the principal’s signature to get a boat. "Hustler kid" always tries to sell contraband. There also several psychedelic-looking ’60s scenes. Principal Prickly runs around in his boxer shorts for most of the movie.

conclusion: While many movies based on TV shows try to push the boundaries and become more "racy" on the big-screen, Recess: School’s Out does the opposite. Its messages and themes are actually more family-friendly than the Saturday morning cartoon. And the writing and plot will hold the attention of both parents and kids. The film starts out with the "Recess" gang against Principal Prickley, Ms. Finster and Randall (the snitch kid). But by the end, they’re all on the same team to save the school and summer vacation. T.J. even starts to respect Prickly, and Prickly remembers what it’s like to be a kid. If only those same ideals would find their way back to TV.


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