By Lisa Schwarzbaum
February 14, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

Summer vacation — the ultimate recess — is the stage on which the familiar, resourceful kids and dunderheaded adults of the popular children’s TV cartoon series ”Disney’s Recess” play their assigned roles in Recess: School’s Out. But just because they’re familiar doesn’t mean this crew is exactly marquee material. Instead, this feature length animation is strictly a dinner theater quality production.

The notion that during their downtime, the gang of grade school friends from the Third Street School thwart an adult scheme to do away with summer vacation (the better to raise student test scores) has a certain charm and even newsworthiness; the same Scroogelike idea has been floated around the country, including by New York City’s Mayor Giuliani (who, come to think of it, bears a certain personality resemblance to Principal Prickley, voiced by Dabney Coleman).

But in deciding to aim their story squarely at kids, with little of the multigenerational pleasures of even ”Recess”’ artistic forebear ”Rugrats,” creator producers Paul Germain and Joe Ansolabehere have come up with some unexceptional children and underdeveloped adults. (A flashback to the peace and love days of Prickly and his flower power nemesis, voiced by James Woods, is as pointless as smoking oregano.)

Coming after the throwaway hipness of ”The Emperor’s New Groove,” ”School’s Out” is particularly ungroovy. But a bored parent might as well stay for the closing song: ”Green Tambourine,” a mild homage to the psychedelic sound and style of ”Yellow Submarine,” is sung by the king of dinner theater Camelot himself, Robert Goulet.

  • Movie
  • G
  • 84 minutes
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