The latest entry in the revenge-on-the-educator genre — extending at least as far back as “Matilda” — is the slick, harmless “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life,” from the Lionsgate factory and adapted from the novel out of the James Patterson book factory. Directed by Steve Carr (“Paul Blart: Mall Cop”), the movie borrows a trick or two from the Disney XD series “Kirby Buckets,” with a dollop of “A Brilliant Mind” for dramatic heft.
Rafe Khatchadorian (an affable Griffin Gluck), booted out of two educational institutions, is now enrolled at Hills Village Middle School, dominated by the pompous, rules-obsessed Principal Dwight (Andy Daly). Rafe, who spends hours drawing cartoons (many brought to life in generic animated sequences), is outraged when Principal Dwight drops one of his notebooks in a bucket of acid. And so, with the aid of the younger Leo (Thomas Barbusca), he perpetrates a series of mild vandalistic acts, like putting paint in the principal’s hat and wallpapering hallways with Post-it notes. Eventually, his classmates join in when he again faces expulsion.
Lauren Graham is sufficient as Rafe’s mother, while Rob Riggle brings standard-issue smarminess to the role of her boyfriend. As Rafe’s co-conspirator Jeanne, Isabela Moner is merely adorable. The find here is Alexa Nisenson as Georgia, Rafe’s know-it-all little sister, who takes cars out for a spin. She is blessed with the best lines, comic and dramatic, and appears delightfully cognizant of the fact. If only the movie had more of her.
“Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life” is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested) for naughty words cut off in midutterance.