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Recess : School's Out  

A Successful Television Cartoon Hopes To Take Its Target Audience Into Theatres

Cast: (Voices Of) Allyce Beasley...............Miss Alordayne Grotkey
Dabney Coleman...............Principal Vance Prickley
Rickey D'Shon Collins........Vince Lasalle
Jason Davis..................Mikey Blumberg
Ashley Johnson...............Gretchen Grundler
Andrew Lawrence..............Theodore "T.J." Detweiler
Courtland Mead...............Gustavus "Gus" P. Griswald
Katey Sagal..................Mrs. Flo Spinelli
Pamela Segall................Ashley Spinelli
April Winchell...............Miss Finster

Directed by: Chuck Sheetz Written by: Jonathan Greenberg

There are indeed some inspired moments in Disney's "Recess: School's Out". I just don't know if there are enough for the movie to successfully play outside its limited target audience.

The story opens on the last day of the school year. The kids count the seconds, then celebrate with immeasurable glee. T.J. Detweiler (Andrew Lawrence) has big plans for summer vacation. Unbeknownst to him, his friends have all enrolled in various summer camps; a drama camp, a baseball camp, a science camp, a military camp, and even a professional wrestling camp. All alone with nothing to do, T.J. aimlessly rides his bike around the vacated school grounds. Suddenly, he notices a strange green light eminating from the cafeteria. Convinced that some kind of conspiracy is about to take place, he tries telling his parents, the local police, and even the school's golf-obsessed principal (Dabney Coleman). No one believes him. Eventually, he pulls his friends out of their respective camps to join him in the investigation.

Something is indeed about to happen. Not the destruction of the world, but something far more sinister ... the elimination of RECESS! A pedagogical madman (James Woods) has plans to do away with recess (including summer vacation) in the hopes of improving the school's test scores. Now it's up to our pint-sized protagonists to preserve the students' most cherished asset.

The film is based upon the successful television series of which I am unfamiliar. I get the feeling that fans of that series will probably get much more from the experience. As I watched the movie, the feeling of being a viewer out of the loop came over me. The movie does have some decent laughs, but seems to be aimed directly at those familiar with the original television cartoon.

The director is Chuck Sheetz, who has worked on both "The Simpsons" as well as "King of the Hill." He does incorporate some very humorous touches, including a flashback sequence to the 1960's as Principal Prickley recounts the origins of his nemesis' diabolical plan. I also liked the reasoning behind the villain's intricate climate-altering plot.

Yet somehow the movie as a whole didn't completely appeal to me. There certainly is an audience for this kind of material, although I sense it's a bit scaled down. Maybe eight to eleven year olds? As for me, I took from it what laughs I could, appreciated what it tried to do, but ultimately walked away with the realization that I just didn't reside inside the movie's demographical target.

Copyright 2001 Michael Brendan McLarney Critically Ill

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