Making the Grades
Recess: School's Out brings Saturday morning cartoon characters T.J. Detweiler (voice of Andrew Lawrence) and his elementary chums to the big screen. As the final seconds of the school year tick to a close, T.J. has big plans for how the gang will spend their summer... until all of his pals shuttle off to camps, and his vacation suddenly looms ahead of him like an extended detention. It is only after a pulsating green glow and big-boned, bald guy lurking in front of the school catch his eye that things start to perk up for T.J.
Discovering that the auditorium of 3rd Street Elementary has been converted to a sort of mad scientist's headquarters by former Education Minister Phil Benedict (voice of James Woods) whose evil designs include eliminating summer vacation, T.J. goes for help, first to the adults who are not only dim-witted and short-sighted, but incapable of effecting any change. Coddled by his parents, laughed off by the local police detachment and dismissed by his own principal, Mr. Prickly (voice of Dabney Coleman), T.J. decides to take things into his own hands. Threatening to publish excerpts from her diary on the Internet, T.J. coerces his older sister into retrieving his absentee friends and together they plan an attack to take back the school. But when Benedict and his goons capture T.J., the Recess pals realize it will take as many of the student body, staff, and playground toys they can muster to outwit and outmaneuver the evil Benedict.
Recess, set to snappy 60's tunes, squarely places the fate of 3rd Street school and summer vacation in the hands of fourth graders, a rather onerous responsibility even for someone as precocious and trouble savvy as T.J. Detweiler. Although the film promotes teamwork to overcome formidable odds, it's promotion of anti-authority attitudes consigns adults to sit in the corner while posing young viewers with an unsettling question: If you are at the peak of power and mental prowess in the fourth grade, why would you ever want to grow up and leave recess behind?