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Toon Talk
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by Kirby C. Holt (archives)
March 5, 2001
Kirby reviews the latest Disney feature Disney's Recess: School's Out.

Toon Talk
Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt

Recess.jpg (9162 bytes)
(c) Disney

Disney's Recess: School's Out
Summer Lovin'

The stars of Disney's One Saturday Morning animated series Recess make the leap from the small screen to the big screen in this moderately entertaining feature that rehashes that age old conflict, kids versus adults, with the stakes being the ultimate recess: summer vacation.

The plot is set in motion on the last day of school, when the leader of the Recess gang T.J. (voice of Disney Channel TV movie staple Andrew Lawrence) is unexpectedly abandoned by his pals, who are all shipped off to various trendy summer camps. Bored and lonely, he stumbles across strange doings at the abandoned Third Street Elementary. T.J. enlists the aid of his arch-nemesis, Principal Prickly (Dabney Coleman, who has made a career of such blustery cranks), but this leads to a mysterious disappearance that forces T.J. into action. He must recruit his school mates into this pint-sized Mission: Impossible.

The man behind all these mysterious occurrences is the school's former principal, Dr. Philliam Benedict, voiced by James Woods in the film's most obvious attempt at keeping the parents entertained. As with his deliciously wicked turn as Hades in Hercules, Woods puts a sly spin on even his most benign dialogue. Simply, he knows he's the bad guy and revels in that fact. His nefarious scheme, complete with an army of thugs and ninjas, is worthy of Ernst Stavro Blofeld: to eliminate summer vacation, he will do anything. And if that means he has to realign the moon to eliminate summer all together, so be it. Needless to say, it's up to the kids to stop him.

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(c) Disney

I have only caught a few episodes of the Recess TV show. (Why do they have to put Saturday morning cartoons on Saturday morning?) But from what I have seen, it isn't any different then any other school-based sitcom, from Saved by the Bell to Boy Meets World. First you have the racially diverse group of mop-tops, teaming with clichés: the nerd, the tomboy, the fat kid.  Pit them against clueless teachers and principals. Sophomoric hilarity ensues. This scenario goes at least as far back as Welcome Back, Kotter, and it isn't any fresher now, especially as a full-length feature.

While most of the gags are aimed at those who would find "the principal has a saggy butt" a knee-slapper, there are a few good laughs tossed in for the adult's sake. In fact, not to sound sarcastic, but the high-point of the film for me was the end: during the end credits we are treated to a trippy, psychedelic music video of flower child anthem "Green Tambourine" with lead vocals by Robert Goulet. (Goulet played similar duty for the Toy Story 2 finale, with a Las Vegas-y version of "You've Got a Friend in Me".)

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