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RECESS: SCHOOL'S OUT

SYNOPSIS:
Third Street School’s Principal Prankster, T.J. Detweiler (voice of Andy Lawrence), keeps himself amused during the school term by pestering Principal Prickly (Dabney Coleman). Still, he’s overjoyed when summer vacation arrives and he can get down to some serious playtime with his friends - until he realises they’re all off to summer camp. Feeling abandoned, TJ is moping about on his bike when he spies some strange goings on at the supposedly empty school. Soon he is summoning the gang back from their respective camps, and even enlisting the help of Principal Prickly, to thwart the recess-threatening schemes of one Dr. Philliam Benedict (James Woods)—an old adversary of Principal Prickly.

Does a diabolical plot to freeze out summer vacation lose its . . . er, heat . . . when it arrives Down Under for mid-year school holidays? This film might be aimed at pre-teens, but I’m sure they’re old enough, and conditioned enough, to have mastered the art of thinking like Yankee Youth for the sake of entertainment. In any case, our antagonist’s sinister designs include icing all recess, and everyone can relate to that. Chaperones included. The moral of this unassuming animation is that it is not until we leave our earliest years behind that we recognise them for the best years of our lives. A saccharine old saw to be sure, but one which the adults are more likely to buy than the kids. Like Rugrats, Recess is a cash-in on a popular television show. And as with Rugrats, you don’t have to be familiar with the telly series to recognise it as a typical episode beefed up for the big screen. A group of ordinary kids saving the day(light) is a trite, tried and tested premise for a cheerful trifle that rises above its cliched plot and crude animation with some sharp lines of dialogue. The writing is clever and never patronises its youthful target audience. Ultra-modern in idiom, there’s also some nostalgia for the oldies-in-tow with the revelations of the older characters’ beatnik backgrounds and an absolutely ripping soundtrack of 60s psychadaelia.
Brad Green

Recess: School’s Out is essentially a feature length spin off of the Disney cartoon series. But it has none of the trademark Disney animation style, and none of the cutting edge digital effects audiences have come to expect from animated films in the last 12 months. For all this however, it’s still a reasonably entertaining film, particularly for the pre-teen set. The voice talent features a few notable names, including James Woods as Dr. Benedict, the stereotypical baddie out to raise test scores by eliminating summer vacation. The most noteworthy aspect of the film is the use of music from the sixties and seventies – with the result that the whole thing becomes reminiscent of a Scooby Doo episode. And guess what – the plot follows much the same structure. Six plucky kids (including a budding opera singer and a politically correct brainy girl aspiring to be an astronaut), save school kids everywhere from a lifetime of no summer vacations. The dialogue is witty enough to engage adults, but the storyline is hardly taxing on the brain; if anything, it’s more of a stretch of the imagination. The plot involves a psychotic ex-principal, a plan to alter the moon’s orbit, and a lime green ray gun – all stuff requiring a heap of suspended disbelief from anyone over 12. It’s capped off with a moral about friendship, but that will be of little interest to pre-adolescents. Recess: School’s Out is likely to be fun for your 8 – 12 year olds but, unless you’re a fan of the original series, anyone over that age is likely to find this something of a chore.
David Edwards

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

TRAILER

RECESS: SCHOOL’S OUT (G)
(US)

VOICES OF: Andrew Lawrence, James Woods, Rickey D'Shon Collins, Paul Willson, Jason Davis, Ashley Johnson

DIRECTOR: Chuck Sheetz

PRODUCER: Joe Ansolabehere, Paul Germain, Toshio Suzuki, Stephen Swofford, Dave Swuz

SCRIPT: Jonathan Greenberg (screenplay)

EDITOR: Nancy Frazen (supervising), Tony Mizgalski

MUSIC: Denis M. Hannigan

RUNNING TIME: 82 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 5, 2001







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