Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life Information

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life is a 2016 American live-action/animated family comedy film directed by Steve Carr and written by Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer and Kara Holden, based on the 2011 novel of the same name by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts.

The film stars Griffin Gluck, Lauren Graham, Rob Riggle, Isabela Moner, Retta, Thomas Barbusca, Andy Daly, and Adam Pally. It follows a middle school student who sets out to break every one of the many rules made by his domineering principal.

Principal photography began on November 21, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. Lionsgate released the film on October 7, 2016. It received mixed reviews and has grossed over $23 million.


Rafe Khatchadorian (Griffin Gluck), who enjoys a passion for art and has an incredible imagination, transfers mid-year to Hills Village Middle School after being kicked out of his previous one. On his first day, he meets the strict and exceedingly vain Principal Ken Dwight (Andy Daly) and his stern, obsequious Vice-Principal Ida Stricker (Retta). Dwight runs the school with an iron fist and forces students to comply with an extensive list of rules that are mostly senseless and unlawful ones while Stricker follows along with his antics. Later that day, an assembly focused on the BaseLine Assessment of Academic Readiness standardized test, led enthusiastically by Dwight, is interrupted when another student grabs Rafe's sketchbook in which he had humorously drawn the principal as a zombie repeating "B.L.A.A.R." over and over. Dwight responds by destroying the sketchbook, much to the dismay of Rafe as it had been filled with his personal work.

Later that day, Rafe is back in his room with his best friend Leo (Thomas Barbusca) who suggests that to get even, Rafe should destroy Dwight's rule book. To show the ridiculousness of Dwight's rules, Rafe and Leo pull several pranks such as papering the walls of the hallways as well as Dwight's office with colored sticky notes, changing the period bell to make it end with the sound of flatulence, filling the teachers' lounge with plastic balls, putting pink hair coloring in Dwight's hat, and turning the trophy case into a fish tank complete with coral and several sea creatures, including an eel. These pranks gain the attention and admiration of Rafe's fellow students, including Jeanne Galletta (Isabela Moner), the lone member of the AV Club who also sees the pointlessness of Dwight's rules, and on whom Rafe develops an immediate crush. Leo suggests strongly to Rafe that he not reveal himself just yet.

In the midst of the chaos, Dwight, obsessed with his school's performance on the BLAAR, realizes that if he can stop the remedial class, which includes Rafe, from taking the test, then the average scores will improve enough to earn a number one ranking for the school, and a significant bonus for him and Stricker. To rig the BLAAR, Dwight frames several students from the class by secretly putting items in their lockers that make it appear like they were responsible for the pranks, and suspends the whole class for a week. He also uses the opportunity to unlawfully fire Mr. Teller (Adam Pally), the compassionate remedial class teacher who, along with the other teachers, disagrees with Dwight and Stricker's antics and sees through Dwight's plan. Rafe immediately goes to Dwight's office and begs him not to suspend the other students since he was the one responsible for the pranks; when Dwight refuses, Rafe creates a crazy dance party by activating the sprinkler system and fire alarm, which soaks the school and the students in colored dye that was intended to be yet another one of his pranks, which prompts an enraged Dwight to expel Rafe permanently.

Now expelled from Hills Village Middle School, Rafe is confronted by his mother Jules (Lauren Graham) who tells him that her fianc Carl "Bear" (Rob Riggle), who seriously loathes Rafe and his sister Georgia (Alexa Nisenson), has found a military school where Jules should consider sending him. While acknowledging that it is not ideal, it represents what may be the only option left, as Hills Village was the last school that would accept him. She also pauses to reflect the passing of Rafe's younger brother Leo, two years earlier, revealing that Leo had been imagined the whole time by Rafe. Later that evening, Jeanne shows up at Rafe's house with evidence: a VHS tape containing surveillance footage and a documentary about the school she had recorded of Dwight putting the items "found" in the student lockers himself to frame the students so that they would get suspended and the test would be rigged. With this evidence, Rafe, Jeanne, and Georgia gather the suspended students from the remedial class outside the middle school, along with the disgruntled janitor Gus (Efren Ramirez), who also dislikes Dwight's rules, and pull together a plan to get revenge on Dwight and Stricker.

The next morning, Jules discovers that neither Rafe nor Georgia are home and becomes concerned about their disappearance, but when Bear shows more concern in the fact that his car (a red stick-shift 2009 BMW 328i (E90) sedan with doors that occasionally jam when opening) is missing as it was stolen by the kids, she finally realizes that he is nothing more than a selfish jerk, as Rafe claimed.

Meanwhile, with B.L.A.A.R. testing ready to begin, Rafe and his classmates interrupt procedures and expose Dwight's deceitfulness. Fed up with Rafe's inferred disobedience, Dwight begins to chase him, but one of the students trips Dwight, so Stricker begins to chase Rafe but ends up getting tripped as well. Gus shows up in a cart to pick up Rafe. Dwight then steals a student's bike and gives chase, only to have a pile of manure dumped all over him. Just as Dwight catches up with Rafe and Gus, Mr. Teller arrives with Superintendent Hwang (Angela Oh) to whom Rafe hands over the video proving Dwight's guilt. He and Stricker are subsequently fired by Hwang for creating unlawful rules, unlawfully firing Mr. Teller, and for illegally rigging the B.L.A.A.R. Hwang also reveals that she will bring their crimes to court. When Jules arrives to pick up Rafe and Georgia, Rafe is re-enrolled, she breaks up with Bear, and gives him back the engagement ring to pay for the damages to his car (courtesy of Georgia).

Rafe is later seen that night outside the school conversing with Leo, who tells him that since Rafe has now made friends with some of his classmates, he is no longer needed to fill that void. As Leo departs on a spaceship with aliens that Rafe has created in his earlier sketchbook, Rafe and Jeanne share a kiss, breaking rule #86 which is the final rule Rafe needed to break for an ends justify the means deed.


  • Griffin Gluck as Rafael "Rafe" Khatchadorian, an eleven year old rule-breaking but well-meaning middle schooler who attends the sixth grade at Hills Village Middle School and is Jeanne Galetta's love interest.
  • Lauren Graham as Julie "Jules" Khatchadorian, Rafe's mother
  • Rob Riggle as Carl "Bear", Jules' child-hating boyfriend
  • Thomas Barbusca as Leonardo "Leo" Khatchadorian, Rafe's ten-year-old best friend and late younger brother
  • Andy Daly as Principal Kenneth "Ken" Dwight, the strict and exceedingly vain principal of Hills Village Middle School
  • Adam Pally as Mr. Teller, Rafe's friendly and fun-loving English teacher who dislikes Dwight and Stricker's antics
  • Retta as Ida Stricker, the stern vice-principal of Hills Village Middle School and Principal Dwight's accomplice.
  • Jacob Hopkins as Miller "the Killer", a large school bully who targets Rafe, but later joins his plan to battle Dwight
  • Alexa Nisenson as Georgia Khatchadorian, Rafe's nine-year-old smart younger sister
  • Isabela Moner as Jeanne Galletta, Rafe's love interest who helps him in his plan
  • Efren Ramirez as Gus, the disgruntled janitor who later joins Rafe's plan to get revenge on Dwight
  • Isabella Amara as Heidi
  • James A. Patterson as James, a restaurant manager at Dave & Buster's.
  • Jessi Goei as Bella
  • Luke Hardeman as Shon
  • Angela Oh as Superintendent Hwang, the superintendent of the school district that Hills Village Middle School is in.
Animation voices provided by Jeremy Culhane, Stephen Kearin, Tom Kenny, Mike Matzdorf, Michael Rapaport, and Jacob Vargas.


On August 4, 2015, it was announced that Steve Carr would direct the film adaptation of James Patterson's 2011 novel Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, with a script written by Chris Bowman and Hubbel Palmer. Griffin Gluck would play the lead role, Rafe Khatchadorian, a student at Hills Village Middle School. Leopoldo Gout and Bill Robinson were set to produce the film, along with CBS Films, which handles international sales, with Lionsgate handling distribution. On November 12, 2015, more cast were announced for the film, whose script was also written by Kara Holden; it was also announced that Patterson would co-finance the film through his James Patterson Entertainment, along with Participant Media and CBS Films.

Principal photography on the film began on November 21, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia, and wrapped on January 19, 2016.


CBS Films distributes the film through its partnership deal with Lionsgate. The film was released on October 7, 2016.

Box office

In the United States and Canada, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life was projected to gross $8-10 million from 2,822 theaters during its opening weekend. It went on to open to $6.9 million, finishing 7th at the box office for its first weekend. It finished its theatrical run with a total gross of $23.3 million, making it a moderate success against its $8.5 million production budget.

Critical response

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life received mixed reviews from critics. On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 58%, based on 38 reviews, with an average rating of 5.5/10. Metacritic reported an average rating of 51 out of 100, based on 13 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.

Varietys Joe Leydon commended director Steve Carr for grounding the comedic aspects of the film in a "candy-colored facsimile" of reality and the cast for admirably performing their roles, highlighting both Gluck and Daly as "well-matched opponents", calling it "A youth-skewing comedy-fantasy with possible cross-generational appeal." Deborah Dundas of the Toronto Star praised the performances from the cast and the overall humor and aesthetics that appear throughout the film, concluding that, "As they manage the world between childhood and being a teenager, this film gives middle school kids a way to deal with their shared experience "? overbearing adults, school bullies, first crushes, impossible rules "? and giggle at the things that grind "?em down." Marjorie Baumgarten of The Austin Chronicle found the film to be reminiscent of the teen movies of John Hughes, saying that "Deft filmmaking moves quickly past the film"?s implausibilities (like how Rafe pulls off some of his more elaborate stunts in the limited overnight hours, or how he even physically gets back to school), and particularly good performances by the cast"?s younger members help make the story credible." The Hollywood Reporters Frank Scheck also felt the movie channelled its inner Hughes, calling it Ferris Bueller's Day Off for the tween demographic. He added that the film "delivers an easily digestible and amusing portrait of youthful hijinks that should well please its target audience ["?] prove modestly successful in its theatrical release before enjoying a long life in home video formats."

Jesse Hassenger of The A.V. Club gave the film a 'C-' grade. He said "[T]hough its title and general tone lament the stifling atmosphere of the years between childhood and full-fledged teenhood, the movie misses the animal hostility and physical awkwardness of genuine tweens." Keith Watson of Slant Magazine wrote that despite the "good-natured irreverence" throughout the plot and the capability of its adult-aged comedic actors making moments "winsomely breezy," he felt it was by-the-numbers overall saying, "Unimaginatively directed and indifferently shot, the film never establishes a distinctive voice for itself." Alonso Duralde from TheWrap felt the writing throughout the movie, despite displaying its younger actors as being "consistently endearing", hampered any moments of comedy and drama to feel "strained and mawkish," making the plot come across more as "a third-rate Saved by the Bell knock-off than a legitimate teen flick." Tom Russo from The Boston Globe found the adaptation "comedically flat" with its squandered visual gags and contributions from its adult cast, putting it alongside similar films like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Home media

The film was released on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download on January 3, 2017.


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Annie Awards February 4, 2017 Best Animated Special Production Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life


On October 3, 2016, James Patterson announced that he is developing a sequel to the film.

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