Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life (film)

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life is a 2016 American live-action/animated family comedy film directed by Steve Carr and written by Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer and Kara Holden, based on the 2011 novel of the same name by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts.

Middle School:
The Worst Years of My Life
Middle School The Worst Years of My Life (film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySteve Carr
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onMiddle School: The Worst Years of My Life
by James Patterson
Chris Tebbetts
Music byJeff Cardoni
CinematographyJulio Macat
Edited by
  • Wendy Greene Bricmont
  • Craig Herring
Distributed byLionsgate
Release date
  • October 7, 2016 (2016-10-07)
Running time
92 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$8.5 million[1]
Box office$23 million [1]

The film stars Griffin Gluck, Lauren Graham, Rob Riggle, Isabela Moner, Retta, Thomas Barbusca, Andy Daly, and Adam Pally. It follows Rafael "Rafe" Katchadorian, a middle school student played by Gluck, who sets out to break every one of the many rules made by his domineering principal.

Lionsgate released the film on October 7, 2016. It received mixed reviews and grossed over $23 million. A sequel is in development, however production is currently unknown.


Rafe Khatchadorian, a boy with an incredible imagination and a passion for art, transfers mid-semester to Hills Village Middle School after being expelled from the only two other schools in the entire district that would accept him. On his first day, he meets the dim-witted Principal Ken Dwight and his obsequious Vice-principal, Ida Stricker. Dwight forces students to comply with an extensive list of rules that are mostly senseless while Stricker follows along with his antics. Later that day, an assembly focused on the Base Line Assessment of Academic Readiness (B.L.A.A.R.) standardized test, led by Dwight, is interrupted when another student grabs Rafe's sketchbook in which he had drawn the principal as a zombie repeating "B.L.A.A.R." over and over. Stricker responds by snatching the sketchbook, and handing it over to Dwight, which he prompts him to end the assembly. Later in the Dwight's office, he destroys the sketchbook in a bucket of acid, much to the devastation of Rafe.

Later that day, Rafe is back in his room with his best friend, Leo, who suggests that to get even, Rafe should destroy Dwight's rule book. To show the ridiculousness of Dwight's rules, Rafe and Leo pull several pranks such as papering the walls of the hallways as well as Dwight's office with colored sticky notes, rigging the period bell to make it end with a fart, filling the teachers' lounge with plastic balls, putting pink hair dye in Dwight's hat, and turning the trophy case into a fish tank, complete with an eel. These pranks gain the attention and admiration of Rafe's fellow students, including Jeanne Galletta, on whom Rafe develops an immediate crush.

In the chaos, Dwight, obsessed with his school's performance on the B.L.A.A.R., realizes that if he can exclude Rafe's class from the test, then the average scores will improve. Dwight frames several students from the class by secretly putting items in their lockers that make it appear like they were responsible for the pranks and suspends the whole class for a week, and even uses the opportunity to unlawfully fire Mr. Teller, the compassionate remedial class teacher who, along with the other teachers, disagrees with Dwight and Stricker's antics and sees through Dwight's plan. Rafe immediately goes to Dwight's office and begs him to not suspend the other students since he was the one responsible for the pranks; when Dwight refuses, Rafe creates a wild dance party via the sprinkler system and fire alarm, soaking the school and the students in colored dye that was intended to be yet another one of his pranks, which prompts an enraged Dwight to expel Rafe permanently.

Now expelled from Hills Village Middle School, Rafe is confronted by his mother Jules (Lauren Graham) who tells him that her fiancé Carl "Bear" (Rob Riggle), who seriously loathes Rafe and his intelligent younger sister Georgia, has found a military school where Jules should consider sending him. While acknowledging that it is not ideal, it represents what may be the only option left. She also pauses to reflect the passing of Rafe's younger brother and abandonment of their father, who was unable to handle the younger brother’s sickness. The younger brother is then revealed to be Leo. This also reveals that Leo had been just Rafe's imaginary friend the whole time. Later that evening, Jeanne shows up at Rafe's house with evidence: a VHS tape containing a documentary of the school she had recorded with surveillance footage of Dwight putting the items "found" in the student lockers himself to frame the students so that they would get suspended and the test would be rigged. With this evidence, they have to stop the test, so Rafe entercountered Jeanne to his younger sister Georgia, and they all gathered the suspended students from the remedial class outside the middle school, along with the janitor Gus, who also dislikes Dwight's rules and mistreatment of others (including himself), and pull together a plan to get revenge on Dwight and Stricker.

The next morning, Jules discovers that neither Rafe nor Georgia are home and becomes concerned about their disappearance, but when Bear shows more concern in the fact that his car is missing as it was stolen by the kids, she finally realizes that he is nothing more than a "selfish jerk" and leaves to find her kids.

Meanwhile, with B.L.A.A.R. testing ready to begin, Rafe and his classmates interrupt procedures and expose Dwight's deceitfulness. He showed Principal Dwight's behavior and attitude by saying: "Principal Dwight is a hypocrite who likes to make the rules, but thinks he's too good to actually follow them himself", and showed the proof of what happened yesterday. Gus shows up in a cart to pick up Rafe while Dwight gives chase, only to have a pile of manure dumped all over him. Just as Dwight catches up with Rafe and Gus, Mr. Teller arrives with Superintendent Hwang whom Rafe hands over the video proving Dwight's guilt. After viewing the video, Hwang fires both Dwight and Stricker for creating unlawful rules, illegally rigging the B.L.A.A.R., unlawfully firing Mr. Teller, illegally expelling Rafe, using unreasonable punishments on students who break the rules, and framing and unlawfully suspending the students of his class. Hwang also plans to press charges and have Dwight and Stricker arrested. When Dwight puts his hat on, he realizes that it has green hair dye in it, though instead of being shocked, he accepts the joke this time. With Dwight and Stricker both terminated from Hills Village, Rafe is re-enrolled and Mr. Teller gets his job back.

After school, Jules soon arrives to pick up Rafe and Georgia, Bear also arrives in a taxi and is enraged that his car was partially damaged. Bear angrily lashes out at both Rafe and Georgia; however, Jules comes to their defense and dumps Bear for his abusive behavior, returning the ring to pay for the damages to his car (courtesy of Georgia). Bear storms away in a huff, and the family go home.

Rafe is later seen that night outside the school conversing with Leo, who tells him that since Rafe has now made friends with some of his classmates, he is no longer needed to fill that void. As Leo departs on a spaceship with aliens that Rafe has created in his earlier sketchbook, Rafe and Jeanne share a kiss, breaking rule #86 which is the final rule Rafe needed to break for an ends justify the means deed.

The scene ends with Leo, the two-headed dog, and a lot of monsters in the spaceship. Leo parties with the monsters, and Bear (as a bear) and Principal Dwight (as a zombie) were put in jail. Then the scene shows outer space, and the spaceship zooms off.


  • Griffin Gluck as Rafael "Rafe" Khatchadorian, an eleven year old rule-breaking but well-meaning middle schooler and aspiring cartoonist who attends the sixth grade at Hills Village Middle School.[2]
  • Lauren Graham as Julie "Jules" Khatchadorian, Rafe's mother[3]
  • Rob Riggle as Carl "Bear", Jules' immature and child-hating boyfriend/fiancé who tries to send Rafe to military school, but ends up getting dumped by Jules when she sees his true self[3]
  • Thomas Barbusca as Leonardo "Leo" Khatchadorian, Rafe's imaginary ten-year-old best friend and late real younger brother who passed away from cancer.[3]
  • Andy Daly as Principal Kenneth "Ken" Dwight, the strict and exceedingly vain principal of Hills Village Middle School who is obsessed with the B.L.A.A.R. Testing and becomes Rafe’s main goal of revenge[3]
  • Adam Pally as Mr. Teller, Rafe's friendly and fun-loving English teacher who dislikes Dwight and Stricker's antics[3]
  • Retta as Ida Stricker, the stern vice-principal of Hills Village Middle School and Principal Dwight's accomplice.
  • Jacob Hopkins as Miller "the Killer", a large school bully who targets Rafe, but later joins his plan to battle Dwight[4]
  • Alexa Nisenson as Georgia Khatchadorian, Rafe's nine-year-old smart younger sister[3]
  • Isabela Moner as Jeanne Galletta, the intelligent president of the AV club and Rafe's love interest who helps him in his plan[3]
  • Efren Ramirez as Gus, the disgruntled janitor who later joins Rafe's plan to get revenge on Dwight[3]
  • Isabella Amara as Heidi
  • James A. Patterson as James, a restaurant manager at an Italian restaurant where Bear proposes to Jules on her birthday.
  • Gemma Forbes as Dana, a waitress at Dave and Buster's.
  • Jessi Goei as Bella, a phone addictive girl who joins Rafe’s plan to get revenge on Dwight.
  • Luke Hardeman as Shon, one of Teller’s students who joins Rafe’s plans of revenge.
  • Angela Oh as Superintendent Hwang, the superintendent of the school district that Hills Village Middle School is in.

Animation voices provided by Jeremy Culhane, Stephen Kearin, Tom Kenny, Mike Matzdorf, Michael Rapaport, and Jacob Vargas.


On August 4, 2015, it was announced that Steve Carr would direct the film adaptation of James Patterson's 2011 novel Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, with a script written by Chris Bowman and Hubbel Palmer.[2] Griffin Gluck would play the lead role, Rafe Khatchadorian, a student at Hills Village Middle School. Leopoldo Gout and Bill Robinson were set to produce the film, along with CBS Films, which handled international sales and Lionsgate which handled domestic distribution for CBS.[2] On November 12, 2015, more cast were announced for the film, whose script was also written by Kara Holden; it was also announced that Patterson would co-finance the film through his James Patterson Entertainment, along with Participant Media and CBS Films.[3]

Principal photography on the film began on November 21, 2015, in Atlanta, Georgia,[4][5] and wrapped on January 19, 2016.[6]


CBS Films distributed the film through its partnership deal with Lionsgate. The film was released on October 7, 2016.[3][4]

Box officeEdit

In the United States and Canada, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life was projected to gross $8–10 million from 2,822 theaters during its opening weekend.[7][8] It went on to open to $6.9 million, finishing 7th at the box office for its first weekend.[9] It finished its theatrical run with a total gross of $23.3 million, making it a moderate success against its $8.5 million production budget.[1]

Critical responseEdit

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life received mixed reviews from critics. On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 63%, based on 43 reviews, with an average rating of 5.5/10.[10] Metacritic reported an average rating of 51 out of 100, based on 13 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[11] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.[12]

Variety's Joe Leydon commended director Steve Carr for grounding the comedic aspects of the film in a "candy-colored facsimile" of reality and the cast for admirably performing their roles, highlighting both Gluck and Daly as "well-matched opponents", calling it "A youth-skewing comedy-fantasy with possible cross-generational appeal."[13] Deborah Dundas of the Toronto Star praised the performances from the cast and the overall humor and aesthetics that appear throughout the film, concluding that, "As they manage the world between childhood and being a teenager, this film gives middle school kids a way to deal with their shared experience — overbearing adults, school bullies, first crushes, impossible rules — and giggle at the things that grind ’em down."[14] Marjorie Baumgarten of The Austin Chronicle found the film to be reminiscent of the teen movies of John Hughes, saying that "Deft filmmaking moves quickly past the film’s implausibilities (like how Rafe pulls off some of his more elaborate stunts in the limited overnight hours, or how he even physically gets back to school), and particularly good performances by the cast’s younger members help make the story credible."[15] The Hollywood Reporter's Frank Scheck also felt the movie channelled its inner Hughes, calling it Ferris Bueller's Day Off for the tween demographic. He added that the film "delivers an easily digestible and amusing portrait of youthful hijinks that should well please its target audience […] prove modestly successful in its theatrical release before enjoying a long life in home video formats."[16]

Jesse Hassenger of The A.V. Club gave the film a "C−" grade. He said "[T]hough its title and general tone lament the stifling atmosphere of the years between childhood and full-fledged teenhood, the movie misses the animal hostility and physical awkwardness of genuine tweens."[17] Keith Watson of Slant Magazine wrote that despite the "good-natured irreverence" throughout the plot and the capability of its adult-aged comedic actors making moments "winsomely breezy," he felt it was by-the-numbers overall saying, "Unimaginatively directed and indifferently shot, the film never establishes a distinctive voice for itself."[18] Alonso Duralde of TheWrap felt the writing throughout the movie, despite displaying its younger actors as being "consistently endearing", hampered any moments of comedy and drama to feel "strained and mawkish," making the plot come across more as "a third-rate Saved by the Bell knock-off than a legitimate teen flick."[19] Tom Russo of The Boston Globe found the adaptation "comedically flat" with its squandered visual gags and contributions from its adult cast, putting it alongside similar films like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.[20]

Home mediaEdit

The film was released on Blu-ray, DVD, digital download and Netflix on January 3, 2017.[21]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Annie Awards February 4, 2017 Best Animated Special Production Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life Nominated [22]


On October 3, 2016, Patterson announced that he is developing a sequel to the film.[23]


  1. ^ a b c d "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life (2016)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 20, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Ford, Rebecca (August 4, 2015). "CBS Films Enrolls in 'Middle School' Based on James Patterson Book Series (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Valence Media. Retrieved December 12, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "CBS Films, Participant Media and James Patterson Assemble Cast for "Middle School: the Worst Years of My Life"". prnewswire.com. November 12, 2015. Retrieved December 12, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Kroll, Justin (November 17, 2015). "'The Goldbergs' Actor Jacob Hopkins Joins 'Middle School' Cast". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved December 12, 2015.
  5. ^ "On the Set for 12/4/15: Gal Gadot Grabs Her Lasso for 'Wonder Woman', Brad Pitt Wraps 'War Machine', 'Resident Evil' Team Finish Final Chapter". ssninsider.com. December 4, 2015. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. Retrieved December 12, 2015.
  6. ^ "On the Set for 1/22/16: Michael Fassbender Starts Shooting Universal's 'The Snowman', Antonio Banderas Wraps on 'Security'". SSN Insider. January 22, 2016. Archived from the original on February 5, 2017. Retrieved January 31, 2016.
  7. ^ McNary, Dave (October 2, 2016). "'Birth of a Nation' and 'Girl on the Train' Hit Box Office Tracking: How Will They Fare?". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  8. ^ "'The Girl on the Train' on Track to Top Weekend Box Office With $30 Million". TheWrap.
  9. ^ "Hurricane Matthew Doesn't Slow 'Girl On The Train', But Overall Ticket Sales Lower Than Jonas; Controversy Conquers 'Nation'". Deadline Hollywood.
  10. ^ "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved February 5, 2017.
  11. ^ "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 15, 2016.
  12. ^ "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Leydon, Joe (October 7, 2016). "Film Review: 'Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life'". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved July 2, 2018.
  14. ^ Dundas, Deborah (October 6, 2016). "Middle School is relatable for the tweens in your life: review". Toronto Star. Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved July 2, 2018.     
  15. ^ Baumgarten, Marjorie (October 7, 2016). "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved July 2, 2018.      
  16. ^ Scheck, Frank (October 6, 2016). "'Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Valence Media. Retrieved July 2, 2018.
  17. ^ "Tweens can do better than the cartoon garishness of Middle School". The A.V. Club. The Onion. October 7, 2018. Retrieved July 2, 2018.
  18. ^ Watson, Keith (October 7, 2016). "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life". Slant Magazine. Retrieved July 2, 2018.     
  19. ^ Duralde, Alonso (October 6, 2016). "'Middle School' Review: Pre-Teen Comedy-Drama Succeeds at Neither". TheWrap. Retrieved July 2, 2018.
  20. ^ Russo, Tom (October 6, 2016). "Just can't wait to get out of 'Middle School'". The Boston Globe. Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC. Retrieved July 2, 2018.     
  21. ^ "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life DVD Release Date January 3, 2017".
  22. ^ "44th Annie Award Nominees". International Animated Film Society. November 28, 2016. Retrieved November 29, 2016.
  23. ^ Boedeker, Hal (October 3, 2017). "James Patterson's goal for movie: Get kids reading". Orlando Sentinel. Tronc. Retrieved January 7, 2017.

External linksEdit