RECESS: SCHOOL'S OUT ***
STARRING: Voices of Andy Laurence, James Woods, Dabney Coleman and Melissa Joan Hart
DIRECTOR: Chuck Sheetz
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
RATING: G, no offensive material
THE LOWDOWN: An animated cartoon about an evil ex-principal who wants to eliminate recess from school
The prevailing industry wisdom regarding G movies is that older kids, especially boys, will stay away in droves. But with the power of the Disney marketing machine behind it, "Recess: School's Out" may change all that. "Recess: School's Out" is a feature-length cartoon version of the Saturday morning TV series, featuring six kids who have just finished fourth grade. T.J. Detweiler, their baseball-capped leader, is dismayed to learn of his cohorts summer plans - wrestling camp, space camp, military camp, opera camp and baseball camp.
The kids here are all types - the brain, the tomboy, the Army brat, the jock - but with some added zing. There's so many Ashleys, they're called "Ashley A." and "Ashley Q.," etc. The kindergartners look and act as though they've been raised by wolves. Voiced by Andy Lawrence, T.J.'s a refreshingly G-rated school bad boy. In his most recent infraction, he informs the FBI that Principal Prickly was a Chinese spy. When asked why, he replies: "I had no choice. You were making us all do a speech in front of the class on personal hygiene. You had to be stopped." But T.J.'s not bored for long after discovering an evil plot to adjust the moon's orbit and rid the world of summer - and summer vacation.
"The administrator who does this will raise test scores of students across the entire country. He could be elected president!" says the villainous Mr. Benedict, voiced to perfection by James Woods. Dabney Coleman and Melissa Joan Hart also pitch in vocal talents.
The kids loved the great 1960's flashback, where the teachers are seen in full bell-bottomed, tie-dyed regalia. In fact, the kids seemed to like just about everything in "Recess." There was no talking or moving around from the crowd, which ranged from toddler to 12. There was a lot to keep their attention - funny scenes from the various summer camps, slapstick pratfalls, and the requisite lasers and ninjas.
There's plenty here for parents to like, too: A G-rated film with no flatulence humor, scary scenes or offensive language, and in which the principal and teachers help rescue the kids. The '60s era soundtrack has mom and dad in mind too, featuring "Born to Be Wild," "Wipeout," "Purple Haze" and "Incense and Peppermints." This soundtrack might be a natural next step for families who have gotten their kids hooked on the Beatles "1" CD.
On the downside, the animation bears far more resemblance to the rush-job Saturday morning lineup than to Disney's classic animated features - an exception being the closing credits in which the kids appear as a psychedelic