Reviewed by: Douglas M Downs
|Featuring:||Alex D. Linz, Zena Grey, Larry Miller, Josh Peck, Amber Valletta|
|Distributor:||Walt Disney Pictures|
Is starting the 7th grade a big deal? You, bet! I can remember vividly the fact that my parents moved from the city to the country between my 6th and 7th grade year. I also made the first of many trips to the orthodontist during that summer. I am sure that most of the adult readers can remember that transition from childhood to youth. And who could forget the nightly Clearasil applications? Now that I am a parent, I get to watch my two sons go through the process.
That awkward premise could be the foundation of a good movie. But I encourage you to read the label at the end first. I know many health conscious people read the nutrition facts on the food they buy. Physicians tell us “we are what we eat”. So please be aware of the contents (with possible mental preservatives) of this film before you take your preteen.
“Max Keeble’s Big Move” is about a tweenage boy that is trying to reinvent himself. He is sooo cool—that he has “phattitude”. Max (Alex D.Linz) decides this year he is going to achieve the illusive goal of being popular. He is joined in his quest by his two friends Megan (Zena Grey) and Robe (Josh Peck). Megan is interested in playing the clarinet and Robe (who always wears a bath robe) is trying to convince us that he doesn’t care what others think. Now why Robe does this or the fact that the school would even allow a student to do that is not explained to us. that’s OK—it’s a formula Disney movie. You are supposed to overlook the obvious and just paint by number.
The character mix also includes a pair of clueless parents. Max’s dad, Don (Robert Carradine), is an ad executive forced to wear silly costumes to help promote business. (How unoriginal—did this idea come straight from Zena who wore similar costumes as a mascot in “Summer Catch”)? Mrs. Keeble (Nora Dunn) is your typical self-absorbed mom who announces to Max that she has finally finished decorating the house (scrapbook included). The only purpose the parents seem to serve is to show that Max has parents and so his father can announce the all important plot point—“we are moving.” Then later retract that statement with “we are not moving”.
I am now completely convinced that “Spy Kids” should be required viewing (Yes, director Tim Hill—that includes you) for anyone who desires to make a movie for children. That film had children who acted like children, and adults who acted like adults. How hard can that be?
Max arrives at school and quickly becomes the target of the school bully, Troy McGinty (Noel Fisher). Troy writes the name of his daily victim on his T-shirt (something I am sure no school administration would ever notice). Keeble also becomes the victim of self-made three-piece suit extortionist Dobbs (Orlando Brown). These two bullies soon help Max to capture the attention of the dishonest Principle Jindraike (Larry Miller). But these three are the least of Max’s problems. It seems he has ticked off the ice cream man (Jamie Kennedy) and the two become intense adversaries (sound like “Snow Day” with the evil snow plow man). And the girl of Max’s dreams, Jenna (Brooke Anne Smith), helps to complete this predictable ensemble.
Now here’s the label promised earlier. I think we all know there are healthy and unhealthy ways we can purchase the same foods. “Max Keeble’s Big Day” contains the following: teenage girl viewed as a sex object (the reinforcement of Britney Spears music included every time we see her), students lusting after their science teacher, the open discussion of pheromones as being nature’s dating service (with visual reinforcement going through the students minds), students stealing pheromones from the science class, students breaking into the principal’s office, students sabotaging the ice cream truck and framing someone else, the lead character destroying the ice cream truck, strong themes of revenge without consequences, and the idea that vigilante justice means always out weighs the unfortunate ends.
I would not note the above except for the fact that this a “PG” film directed at an audience of 10-14. I was in a packed theater on opening day and the average age present was definitely under 10. Personally, I do not think it is an appropriate film for the junior high students. And I’m not the only one who finds “Max” unworthy. Of the critics I’ve read, 75% suggested skipping this one. I would have to agree with their assessment. Several recent Disney disappointments have gotten me to screen Disney fare before taking my own children, and in this case I’m glad my 10-year-old son wasn’t in the audience. Play a favorite board game with your kids instead.