As someone who read and really enjoyed the book this movie's based off of growing up, I don't like this movie very much. It took a book that's surprisingly dark for its age group and completely removed a lot of the more serious parts that made it stand out. For example, in the book, the character Carl (Bear) was an emotionally and even physically abusive stepfather that made Rafe's home life miserable throughout the whole book, until he shoves Rafe's mother and is kicked out of the house. In the movie, though? He's just an idiot that's obsessed with his car. Not much more to his character than that.
Really, though, my biggest problem with this movie is how unrealistic it is. In the book, Rafe (the main character) went to what was essentially a normal school and created his own problems by trying to break every rule in the book. The movie uses the same premise of breaking every rule, but this time it's because the school has rules that are extremely pointless and restrictive. The problem with this is that there's no way the principal should be able to get away with everything he does. No clubs? No bathroom breaks? Not one kid is going home to complain to their parents about that? No one's going to the school board?
The movie's overall message is that kids should be able to think freely and express themselves, but the school is hindering that with all of their rules. This would be completely fine if not for the fact that the movie is extremely in-your-face about it the whole time. There's a point where the vice principal literally says "teach to the test, not to the kids". It's ruined even more by the fact that, like I mentioned before, these rules are so overly restrictive and unrealistic that any person would be against them.
There are other, more minor problems I had that ruined the "realistic fiction" aspect of the movie for me:
- Why is the principal allowed to just destroy Rafe's property? (Sketchbook scene)
- During the colorful water sprinkler scene, I have a VERY hard time believing that it would break out into a dance party. I feel like a more natural reaction would be people being annoyed that their clothes and hair are getting wet, but not even one person seemed to care. I get that it's supposed to be symbolic of creativity and all that, but still...
- The ending. Aren't these characters supposed to be 6th graders? Why are they kissing???
Overall, this movie might have been okay to me if it stood on its own, but it basically mangled the plot of a perfectly good book. For that, I'm not a fan of it.