Mark’s Nostalgia Corner: Recess – School’s Out

Author: Mark Bautista

I acknowledge I use this space to be such a Disney shill, but Disney+ gives me so many opportunities to reminisce over media from years past and, after all, isn’t that the point of this column?

Recess: School’s Out is the theatrical movie based on the television show titled, well, Recess. It followed six plucky elementary school kids, each of whom fulfill some kind of archetype. There was T.J., the cocky leader, Vince, the exceptional athlete, Gretchen, the nasally-voiced science whiz, Spinelli, the abrasive muscle, Gus, the neurotic geek, and Mikey, the gentle giant. Just typing out these names brings back waves of fond memories; I wish I had this diverse of a posse when I was 10 years old. 

The movie basically goes like this: the gang is up against the threat of Doctor Phillium Benedict, and with a name like that, you just know he’s evil. He’s also voiced by James Woods, who seems to have carved out a little niche for himself voicing smarmy, animated villains.  Benedict wants to take away summer vacation from the kids, so they’ll spend more time indoors, so they’ll study more, so standardized test scores go up, so he’ll become President of the United States. How does he plan to take away summer vacation? He’s going to shoot a laser at the moon, throwing off its orbit, causing extreme climate change– there’s going to be snow in July. Clearly Benedict hasn’t heard of winter vacation, but apparently that’s besides the point. 

God, I love this movie. It’s taken me several re-watches to figure out why, but it hit me. This is probably the ultimate fantasy for a 10 year old kid: they get to save the day. School’s Out does that thing in kids movies (Jimmy Neutron, Richie Rich, Home Alone, etc.) where parents and other ostensible authority figures are either absent or useless, so it’s up to the kids to step up. 

So let’s break this down: there’s an evil scientist who’s taken over your school and kidnapped your principal, so now you have to assemble a crack-team of elementary school students and your limited resources to mobilize against him, his radioactive laser, and his ninja bodyguards. How sick is that?  Near the end, there’s an action scene set to “Nobody Like Me” and, let me tell you, there isn’t a scene in a kid’s movie more hype than that. All the kids work together to reclaim summer vacation, and there’s really nothing more inspiring than solidarity (do you know how hard it is to get schoolkids to work together?). 

I’ll admit: It’s a kooky adventure, obviously set outside reality and the smaller stakes of the original series. But, I don’t know, there’s an interesting tension between the tyrannical nature of Benedict and the plucky defiance of the Recess kids– a commentary on battling governmental ideologies perhaps, oppression vs. freedom? It’s a surprisingly thoughtful notion the writers toy with, though it’s lost underneath the pulp of lasers and ninjas. 

Regardless of whether or not it sticks the political landing, check it out! It’s fun, it’s funny, and it’ll make you wish you were a kid again.

Mark Bautista | Disney Shill | KXSU Arts Reporter

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