Recess: School's Out [2001]

Disney's Recess: School's Out dipped in and out of theaters faster than fans of the cable TV show could snap their lunch boxes shut--kind of nice for parents whose idea of grown-up detention is sitting through such fly-by-night kiddie features. Now that home screenings are an option, though, plan for the ages 5-and-older set to settle in for reruns. Also plan to get sucked in yourself--if the screwball plot doesn't do it, the soundtrack will. While TJ and Principal Prickly (the latter the unfortunate bearer of the "saggy butt" that becomes this movie's clunkiest running gag) bust in on a crew of fiendish would-be teachers during summer break, slices of vintage grooviness--Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild," Strawberry Alarm Clock's "Incense and Peppermints," and Robert Goulet's "Green Tambourine" among them--get you cheering along, whether you're 3 or 43. The reason for all the retro funkiness revolves around the chief bad guy, Phil Benedict, a one-time educational visionary and former Prickly schoolmate. Back in the day, Benedict was a radical school revolutionary, but his manifesto for better test scores misfired when it called for a ban on recess, a concept so barbaric it got him canned from a cushy government job. Now, undeterred in his mission to make life miserable for kids, he's hatching a switcheroo scheme that will forever pull the shade on summer and thus summer vacation. Predictably, right at trigger time, TJ, Prickly, and the gang roar in to the rescue. It's an ending that's as pat as any on the TV show, but so what--this is a movie that aims for summer-linen lightness. Just as the Fifth Dimension promise on the soundtrack, it lets the sunshine, as well as a few well-timed chuckles, in. --Tammy La Gorce

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