Recess: School’s Out

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There’s nothing particularly wrong with “Recess: School’s Out,” the latest animated feature from Disney. You should know that it’s based on a TV series, and has approximately the same quality. This is no “classic” (although, knowing Disney, it will probably be marketed that way when it comes out on video).

But it is amusing and mostly devoid of crude humor, which is worth mentioning with kids’ films nowadays. The story is about the kids at the Third Street Elementary School and their plans for summer vacation. The ringleader is T.J. (Andrew Lawrence), a master of non-malicious pranks and mischief who is saddened to learn every single one of his friends is going to a different summer camp, leaving him all alone.

While biking past the school one summer afternoon, he sees strange activity. Further investigation reveals a strange green light eminating from the auditorium, and burly guards keeping a close eye on the place. Panicked, he finds Principal Prickly (Dabney Coleman) — the Seymour Skinner to T.J.’s Bart Simpson — on the golf course and convinces him to come back to the school to see what’s going on. The instant he touches the doorknob of the school, Prickly disappears, leaving only a pair of smoldering shoes.

Even more panicked now, T.J. blackmails his sister into driving him around to all the summer camps to collect his friends. They’re the usual motley assortment: a fat singer (with the singing voice of Robert Goulet!), a science nerd, an ROTC wannabe, a tomboyish girl, etc.

They uncover what’s going on. The school’s former principal Dr. Benedict (James Woods), now a psycho, wants to do away with summer vacation by altering the moon’s orbit and eliminating summer. That green laser is being tested, with the intention of aiming it at the moon and knocking it off course. Such diabolical machinations!

“Recess: School’s Out” is no doubt solid entertainment for kids. While other animated films (most Disney stuff, for example) tend to have subtle jokes for the grown-ups, this one does not. Still, while other animated films (“Pokemon,” for example) may amuse kids while annoying adults, this one does not.

B- (; G.)

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