Rated PG - Running Time: 1:26 - Released 10/5/01

A "geek's revenge" movie with woefully low standards, Max Keeble's Big Move is the product of Disney studios, whose live-action department has become known of late for providing substandard entertainment suitable only for those who will suck up anything dished out to them on the big screen, i.e., kids under 12. Although it contains a few minor chuckles and a few reasonably engaging performances, director Tim Hill's second feature film (after the delightful Muppets From Space) is a major step down.

The first effort of writing trio Jonathan Bernstein, Mark Blackwell, and James Greer, the script for Max Keeble is one of those where only the kids are sentient human beings, and all adults are either well-meaning simpletons or evil, child-hating megalomaniacs. It pits junior high school punching bag Max (Alex D. Linz) against a number of unpleasant characters, including a psychotic principal (Larry Miller), a vengeful ice cream vendor (Jamie Kennedy), a high-strung extortionist (Orlando Brown), and a garden-variety school bully (Noel Fisher). Although his career at Curtis Junior High starts inauspiciously with a routine workover from all of the above, he soon learns from his parents (Robert Carradine, Nora Dunn) that the family is moving to Chicago. Realizing that he will soon be out of range for retribution, Max decides to seize the opportunity, planning elaborate pranks designed to out-bully the bullies. Although his geeky friends Robe (Josh Peck) and Megan (Zena Grey) aren't going anywhere, he convinces them to help with the four-pronged assault, which involves an electronic pocket organizer, a refrigerator coil, a spray bottle filled with animal pheromones, and a six-foot Scottish frog named McGoogles. But after the deeds are done, Max discovers to his horror that he's not moving after all, and now must face the considerable music. Tacked on to this scenario is his crusade to save an animal shelter from destruction (presumably to lend some kind of noble context to his vindictive aims), and his desire to win the affections of the school hottie (Brooke Anne Smith).

Displaying the exact same kind of us-against-the-grownups mentality seen in Home Alone (the third installment of which featured Linz in the starring role) and Snow Day (in which Grey and Peck played supporting parts), Max is a study in pre-teen politics, where the respect one receives grows in direct proportion to his ability to undo others. It's not particularly funny for adults, but there are a few moments, like a spirited cafeteria food-fight scene that rivals the one in Animal House, the only scene in which it's obvious that the actors were having a great time. The film seems interminable despite its short, 86-minute running time, but maybe that was just me. This is the kind of film that, during the final reel, makes a movie critic wonder what he's doing with his life.

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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