Join or Sign In

Sign in to customize your TV listings

Continue with Facebook Continue with email

By joining TV Guide, you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

Recess: School's Out Reviews

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.