By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated March 17, 2020 at 02:54 AM EDT

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 Scrooge-like idea has been floated around the country by, among others, 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 Prickley 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. C LS


Recess: School’s Out
VOICES BY Dabney Coleman Andy Lawrence DISNEY RATED G

Recess: School's Out

  • Movie
  • G
  • 84 minutes
  • Chuck Sheetz