The transition from a half-hour Saturday morning cartoon into a full-length feature film is always a tough sell. It hardly ever works because the attention span of the average child has been reduced to five nanoseconds, making a 22 minute cartoon difficult to stretch. The resulting feature typically looks cheap and underdeveloped on a big theater screen.
In fact, the few successful transitions of series to the big screen have been the Rugrats and South Park cartoons. Why were they successful? Because their creators went beyond the usual scope of TV work to incorporate real story and character development into the feature-length films.
Recess: School's Out fails completely at this.
Based on the characters of Disney's Recess, the anchor of the Disney's One Saturday Morning lineup on ABC and the top-rated series within the Disney's One Too on UPN, Recess: School's Out spends its first 10 minutes introducing the characters of the series and its last 70 minutes trying to piece together an entertaining and original storyline. There's real agony in those 70 minutes.
Here's the story: T.J. Detweiler (Andrew Lawrence) is the main dude of mischief behind a collective of kids -- the brain, the tomboy, the sensitive fat boy, the geeky girl, the token black kid, and the Anthony Michael Hall nerd -- at Third Street School. T.J. finds out during summer break that a former principal of the school, Benedict (James Woods), is attempting to use a laser beam to alter the weather and create a permanent winter, thus eliminating summer vacation. T.J. and his crew vow to stop the mad former principal, defeat a horde of ninjas, and restore order to Third Street School.
This story would have worked if it only ran for 20 minutes instead of the painful 84 I had to sit through. The numerous characters bringing no relevance to the storyline, the flat and unfunny one-liners by the school's faculty and the villains, and the crude and cheap looking quality of animation only make the film fail even harder
By midway through the film, I noticed the children in attendance were more interested in the free pencils and posters given away at the screening than the movie itself. I'm no expert, but if a kid is more interested in a pencil than in your big, flashy movie, you've got a real problem on your hands.
The DVD offers more extras than you could shake a baby at, but if you expect to find any of these interesting, you'll want to make sure you really really loved the film, first.
School's out forever...