Recess: School's Out

Compared to better, more emotionally real TV toons set in the world of grade-school — series like Doug or Arnold — Disney's Recess is a throwback to dated, '50s-style visions of school-yard scamps. Offering hoary, hackneyed jokes about cafeteria food and fat old-lady teachers in flower-print dresses, and getting the blustery...read more

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Reviewed by Frank Lovece
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Compared to better, more emotionally real TV toons set in the world of

grade-school — series like Doug or Arnold — Disney's

Recess is a throwback to dated, '50s-style visions of school-yard

scamps. Offering hoary, hackneyed jokes about cafeteria food and fat old-lady

teachers in flower-print dresses, and getting the blustery principal to do a

slow burn, it's the kid's-eye equivalent of vaudeville mother-in-law routines.

The movie's uninspired animation (including primitive, blocky computer

imagery) doesn't help, nor do its astonishingly stereotyped characters: The

ensemble of 10-year-olds includes "the smart girl," who's a bespectacled,

bucktoothed beanpole; and a dark-skinned, "ethnic" kid, who could be either

Spanish or Italian and is feisty, scrappy and quick-tempered. Please —

what year is this? On the first day of summer vacation, fourth-grader Theodore

"T.J." Detweiler (voice of Andy Lawrence) is dismayed to learn that pals Vince

(Rickey D'Shon Collins), Mikey (Jason Davis), Gretchen (Ashley Johnson), Gus

(Courtland Mead) and Spinelli (Pamela Segall) are going to various summer camps, leaving him to spend the summer alone. But when T.J. discovers a

super-scientific cadre has secretly taken over the Third Street School and

kidnapped his foil, Principal Prickly (Dabney Coleman), he reunites the gang

to stop Prickly's fanatical old friend-turned-nemesis from altering the

seasons in order to end summer — and hence, summer vacation. The movie

does take admirable aim at right-wing politicians who like to trash public

schooling — the villain is a former Secretary of Education named Philliam

Benedict (voiced by James Woods, with a superbly self-aware unctuousness). And

there's a wonderfully out-from-left-field '60s-flashback with a dose of

satire: Benedict wants to end summer vacation because he believes the nation's

clamoring for higher test scores. But even in a kid-heavy screening audience,

virtually the only laughs came during the occasional slapstick moments. At

least baby-boomer parents get a witty '60s soundtrack and a Pink Floyd joke

for their trouble.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: G
  • Review: Compared to better, more emotionally real TV toons set in the world of grade-school — series like Doug or Arnold — Disney's Recess is a throwback to dated, '50s-style visions of school-yard scamps. Offering hoary, hackneyed jok… (more)

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