Follow TV Tropes


Film / Max Keeble's Big Move

Go To
It's Max Keeble's first day of junior high, and things are going badly. Over the course of the day, he is accosted by not one, not two, not three, but four separate bullies: an evil Ice Cream man, thuggish brute Troy McGinty, entrepreneurial lunch-money thief Dobbs, and the malevolent (and stupid) school principal, Elliot Jindrake, who wants to pave over an animal shelter so he can build a football stadium. To top it all off, when Max gets home, his dad announces that his Mean Boss has assigned him a new post in Chicago: By the end of the week, the family has to move.

Max is depressed at first but quickly realizes that with no fear of retribution, he can exact revenge on the bullies. He and his best friends Robe (a chubby kid who always wears a robe) and Megan organize a series of zany plots to give the bullies what's coming to them. Of course, this being the movies, things don't go exactly as planned, and Max eventually has to fix what he's broken and stand up to his oppressors once and for all.

A live action Disney flick from 2001, directed by Tim Hill (who went on to make the CGI Alvin and the Chipmunks) and co-written by Jonathan Bernstein (who went on to write the novel Hottie). The characters and plot are very predictable, but it's got some witty lines and great performances, especially from its young actors and Larry Miller, who serve up several slices of Large Ham.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: This isn't the first time that Larry Miller portrayed a Jerkass school administrator (or being humiliated by a rodent, for that matter).
  • Act of True Love: When Max’s gorgeous crush Jenna invites him to a party but realizes how rude she is to his best friend Megan, he realizes his crush isn’t as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside and Max turns Jenna down claiming he’s meeting “somebody” referring to Megan. This gesture ultimately redeems Max in the eyes of Megan.
  • Adults Are Useless: Even the ones who aren't actively evil are still unhelpful
  • All Just a Dream: The beginning of the film
  • Almighty Janitor: The school janitor, Anthony, becomes one when he locks Jindrake into the storage room out of revenge after learning the principal cut his overtime pay. He also give Max the advice he needs to make amends, in the form of a rather important lesson:
    Anthony: Any kid can make a mess. It takes a man to clean it up.
  • Almost Kiss: During his dream, Max meets up with Jenna and hands her her paper. She asks what took him so long, implying they may be a couple in the dream. After Max replies that he stopped for ice cream, Jenna leans towards him, puckering her lips to kiss him. They are interrupted by the Ice Cream who shoots a ball of ice cream at Jenna, causing Max to wake up from his dream.
  • Alpha Bitch: Jenna; Max's crush, and his best friend Megan's worst enemy. Played with in that Jenna is more of a Brainless Beauty who's so shallow that she doesn't realize she's being mean.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Max might qualify, given his funny name, obsessive-compulsive mother, and dad's quirky sense of humor and background in show business (okay, advertising).
  • Anything but That!: Invoked by Jindrake, when discussing "The Keeble"
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Principal Jindrake plans to pave over an animal shelter to build a football stadium, cuts 97% of the school budget in order to build said football stadium, locks one of his students up in the janitor's room as punishment, and steals toilet paper from the school supply closet. Evil.
  • Bad Humor Truck: Jamie Kennedy as the Evil Ice Cream Man (that's actually the character's name). His Truck, at least in the dream sequence at the beginning, is even modified with an Ice Cream Cannon.
  • Bad Job, Worse Uniform: Max's dad Donald is an ad man, and his boss dresses him up in ridiculous costumes to secure clients.
    • In a deleted scene, when Max attempts to contact his father at the ad agency, he was also working as someone who plays a Samurai complete with a sword, only to apparently cut himself shortly after swinging the katana, indicating that the uniform might actually injure the actor and not just humiliate him/her.
  • Big Eater: Robe.
  • Book Dumb: When Troy McGinty is properly introduced by Max Keeble, a report card depicting his grades is briefly shown, and most of it are "F"s, with the exception of Woodshop, which even that was at best a "D".
  • Book Ends: Meta-example: The filming of the movie started with Alex D. Linz going into the ventilation shaft when shooting the scene of Max and his friends breaking into the school. The filming of the movie concluded with Linz exiting the ventilation shaft.
  • Brainless Beauty: Jenna, Max's crush, is either this or the Alpha Bitch.
  • Butt-Monkey: Really, you have to feel sorry for that uptight teacher who gets pelted with chocolate pudding and knocked into a garbage bin during the "food fight" scene.
    • Then again, given the fact that she had Max write a 2,000 word essay (and eventually have 12,000) due on Friday just because he was late and dripping (which he couldn't even help due to Troy McGinty putting him through a swirly.), and simply let Dobbs steal Max's lunch money and get away with it, she kind of deserved it.
  • Bully Hunter: Max spends the movie getting back at Dobbs, Troy, and Jindrake. It's deconstructed since it only angers the people he bullied, and since he was supposedly moving away, he made his two best friends (and the rest of the school by extension) targets of the former two, and caused Jindrake's Revenge by Proxy. After speaking with the janitor, he realizes all he did was hit and run rather than deal with the people who bullied him constructively.
  • Calling Card: One of the bullies, Troy McGinty, shows everyone who he intends to bully for the day by wearing a coat, to which he promptly unzips to show a shirt with the victim of the day's name that is written in such a way to resemble a word carved into the body. Max Keeble, when getting back at McGinty, even does a variation of McGinty's modus operandi that has a spraypaint streak across his shirt with his name in white letter that he displays to the school before enacting revenge against him.
  • Can't You Read the Sign?: "What, does this seat have your name on it?" "Yes." (points to name on seat)
  • Casting Gag: The Latin American dub the song of MacGoogles, the Barney Expy, was sung by José Carlos Moreno, the official voice of Barney in Spanish.
  • Catchphrase: From Principal Jindrake; "CEASE!"
  • Celebrity Cameo:
    • Several, the most ridiculous being L'il Romeo.
    • Tony Hawk's appearance in the opening can be excused as being a part of Max's dream.
  • Chekhov's Gag: The Running Gag about Jindrake forgetting to turn off the camera during morning announcements. It soon becomes his undoing as Max uses the camera to reveal his apathy towards the school, its employees, it's students, and the nearby animal shelter.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Max's paperboy aim.
  • Child Hater: Principal Jindrake, who refers to his students as acne-scarred riff-raff. You have to wonder just how the jerk got his job in the first place.
  • Comically Small Bribe: Variation: The Evil Ice Cream Man doesn't even attempt to use money to bribe his way out of a speeding ticket, but instead uses one of his ice cream products. Predictably, it fails.
  • Compensating for Something: A variation is utilized with Jindrake: Whenever he does the announcements (via telemonitor), he often dresses himself in a manner similar to the President of the United States of America, and has his office utilize a pull up curtain that apparently depicts the Capitol Building in the background.
  • Crossing the Burnt Bridge: The plot of the movie. Max believes he can go after his bullies without any consequences, seeing as how he's about to move away... until it turns out he's not moving after all, and Max now has to face everyone at school again.
  • Dean Bitterman: The deluded and tyrannical Principal Elliot T. Jindrake. He's played by Larry Miller, who coincidentally also played a bitter dean in The Nutty Professor.
  • Deconstruction: Of the Bully Hunter. Once he realizes there would seemingly be no consequences, Max goes on a spree of chaos throughout the school to get back at Troy McGinty, Dobbs, and Jindrake. However, Max soon learns that the consequences will instead target other things close to him like his friends or a local animal shelter he frequents. The bullies aren't forced into a Took a Level in Kindness and simply get furious as soon as they figure out who was behind their misfortunes.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Jindrake, no other? Specifically, this line when, during his tour with the Superintendent through the school, they witness a food fight:
    "This is completely without precedent. Not only that, but it's never happened before!"
  • Didn't Think This Through: The biggest flaw in Max's revenge schemes against his bullies is that he never considered that, since they can't get revenge on him (having supposedly moved away and all), they might lash out against his friends (or in the case of Jindrake, the entire school) instead. Also, nothing he did actually stopped Jindrake's scheme to destroy the animal shelter.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Evil Ice Cream Man wanted to kill or at the very least maim Max just because Max's mom called the Health Department and nailed him after Max was unluckily enough to discover a cockroach in his ice cream.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: When accepting Jenna's invitation to a milkshake party at a local diner (under the promise of one, eventually to nine, milkshakes), he is being cheered on by various other students when downing his ninth shake in a very similar manner to a binge drinking contest for a Wild Teen Party.
    • Also, both during and after McGinty is terrorized by "MacGoogles" in a blacked-out and shut in gym, his reaction is almost similar to a rape victim.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The movie is filled with this towards the bullies: McGinty and Dobbs meet this sort of thing from Max Keeble, and later from the entire student body. Likewise, it is also strongly implied that the teachers and staff, as soon as they learned the truth about Jindrake's embezzlement of the school's funds, proceeded to fight back against him, including locking him up in the Janitor's closet for a while (and presumably letting Max escape from it). Also, the teacher who let Dobbs steal Max's money and punished Max for something Max had absolutely no control over ended up being one of the few targets during the food fight to actually have a unified front against her.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Wherein Jindrake reveals that he embezzled the school funds to finance his football stadium due in part to Max Keeble turning on the announcement camera without him knowing. After Max stops him from destroying the animal shelter, Jindraike is fired and faces criminal charges.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Evil Ice Cream Man may intend to either kill Max Keeble or at the very least maim him in retribution for discovering a cockroach in his ice cream that presumably got him in deep trouble with the health administration, yet even he objects to someone like Dobbs stealing students' money, especially if they are potential customers.
  • Evil Gloating: Goes hand-in-hand with the Engineered Public Confession above.
  • Evil Redhead: Troy McGinty.
  • Face–Heel Turn: It is implied when Max and Troy encounter each other that they used to be friends given Max's excited greeting before realizing Troy intended to bully him.
  • Food Fight: There's nothing like the sweet taste of rebellious freedom in school.
  • Freudian Excuse: Troy McGinty bears a nasty grudge against Max Keeble because Max's father once wore a frightening costume at his son's birthday party, which Troy attended.
  • Funny Foreigner: The three giant exchange students brought in from Eastern Europe to play football. Though at the end, it's revealed they might actually be Fauxreigners...
  • Golden Moment: With the janitor. "Any kid can make a mess. It takes a MAN to clean it up!"
  • Groin Attack: When Jindrake is trying to give Crazy Legs a tour of the school as per the inspection, due to unknowingly ingesting animal pheromones from his mouth spray, a squirrel finds Jindrake and attempts to find his mate due to the pheromones within Jindrake, and... well, let's just say that the squirrel eventually finds a certain area to test his teeth on.
  • Heel Realization: Max, after speaking with the janitor, realizes the error of his ways of trying to run from his problems with the bullies.
    "It took a man with a plunger to make me realize that I had to do something. I thought I'd stood up to the bullies, but all I'd really done was hit and run. That's not courage. That's ex-courage."
  • Helium Speech: Robe attempts to invoke this on himself while waiting for Max to arrive for the going away party, and succeeds.
  • High-School Hustler: Max. Partially subverted as he is a junior high school student.
  • Hong Kong Dub: When Max goes into his "kung-fu" stance against Jindrake in the movie's climax.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him!: Max, trying to save the bullies from an angry mob of nerds who want to throw them in a dumpster, insists, "If you bully them you will be just like them!" Then he tells them to "let them go," with predictable results.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: "See you bassoon!" Max even lampshades how bad of a pun it was.
    "'See you bassoon'? Eh... stupid."
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Troy McGinty almost becomes one once we learn that he was traumatized as a child by the sight of Max's father dressed as a bizarre cartoon character. "Almost" because that certainly doesn't justify him being a complete Jerkass a decade later.
  • Ironic Echo: Sort of. "I was just running away from my problems, and that's not courage. That ex-courage."
    • Also, when Megan tells Jenna to leave after Max turned down her invitation, she says to Jenna the exact same thing that Jenna herself told her when they first met when dismissing her from the chair: "Shoo-Shoo." Of course, Jenna reacts with indifference.
  • Is This Thing Still On?: Jindrake, whenever he tries to make announcements over the TV system.
  • Karma Houdini: The Yearbook guys, given the fact that they were guilty of as much bullying as Troy McGinty and Dobbs were since their primary use of their journalism skills was to essentially take pictures of the students in embarrassing or traumatizing situations (and even make innocent pictures seem a lot worse with their choice of titles, i.e. "How's this: 'Sheep arrive for slaughter'" on the very first day of school), and unlike Troy, Dobbs, Jindrake, or even the Evil Ice Cream Man, they still haven't received their comeuppance by the end of the movie.
    • They seemed more passionate about their jobs than anything instead of bullying (i.e. they were excited about covering the Food Fight), and the only incriminating thing they did was take photos of Max being manhandled by Troy... and try to write an article about traumatized Troy. But besides their yearbook gig, they also serve as informants to Worried Kid by warning him about the bullies he should be aware of to get the plot moving.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Max decides to Pay Evil unto Evil and become a Bully Hunter once he thinks there will be no consequences for his actions. Even with that in mind, the kids do things like cause a massive mess and embezzle from their teachers.
  • Large Ham: Larry Miller as the principal is over-the-top in Larry Miller's under-the-top way.
  • Last Day to Live: The first two acts of the film is this, albeit a Lighter and Softer version. Max is moving away at the end of the week, and thus believes he has free reign to do whatever he wants to his school. The last third of the movie is cleaning up the mess Max made when it's revealed his family isn't moving after all, and he has to start Crossing the Burnt Bridge.
  • Laughably Evil: Jindrake is a nasty tool, but he's hilariously smug and grandiose.
  • Leitmotif:
    • Jenna, the Alpha Bitch has one that plays every time she appears. It's the intro to Britney Spears' "...Baby, One More Time".
    • Dobbs has the song "If Everybody Looked the Same" by electronica duo Groove Armada.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Part of Max's revenge on Dobbs and the Ice Cream Man consisted of stealing something important to both of them, and then giving the stolen item to the opposite party, and arranging a meeting. Both Dobbs and the Ice Cream Man are arrogant and domineering in their own ways, so Max knew that the two of them would only make things worse for themselves. All in all, a fairly clever Batman Gambit.
  • Lovable Jock: The three foreign exchange students were almost twice as big as McGinty and Dobbs, but they seemed friendly enough, even helping the other kids throw the bullies into the dumpster.
  • Love Is in the Air: Max switches the principal's mouth spray with liquid pheromones, which causes animals to, um, "chase" after him.
  • Malaproper: Principal Jindrake speaks in nothing but these.
    "I don't encourage horseplay and malarkey, I excourage it."
  • Mean Boss: Mr. Keeble's boss forces him to wear ridiculous costumes in advertising pitches (and in one deleted scene, at least one of the costumes actually have the capacity of hurting the actor), then says he has to move to Chicago in a week or be fired.
  • The Moving Experience: Variation, as Max's family really is moving away, but his dad decides to quit his job, so they end up not moving after all.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Jenna. She's usually seen wearing tight cleavage revealing tops, tight pants and short skirts. Not to mention she's about three years older than Max and his friends.
  • Narrator: Max is the voice over narrator of his own first week of school.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: In early trailers, the movie was called "Max Keeble's Big Movie."
  • Noodle Incident: In the second half, when Mr. Keeble explains that they won't be moving, he mentioned that he quit and "gave Fodge [his boss] a dose of his own medicine." Exactly how he did so was never explained, although it is implied that he may have somehow gotten Fodge to wear one of the dorkish costumes.
  • Offscreen Crash: Jindrake drives past the animal shelter, where he sees Max. Of course, he watches Max a little too closely, and the road not close enough.
  • Oh, Crap!: As soon as Max learns he's not going to move away after all he realizes now he has to deal with the consequences of his actions from getting revenge on the bullies who execute Revenge by Proxy on his friends.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Robe. (According to Max, his real first name is Robert.)
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Used in-story, when one of the Eastern European exchange students reveals himself to be surprisingly eloquent.
  • Pheromones: Max and friends replace Jindrake's mouth spray with "animal pheromones".
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Superintendent Knebworth seems to legitimately care about the kids learning and well-being, expressing shock that Jindrake, when revealing his plans in regards to building the football stadium, admitted that he actually cut back on "unimportant" things such as fire extinguishers and milk. It is also subtly implied that he doesn't actually like Jindrake or think he is a good candidate as a successor for the role of superintendent, but has to put up with him, anyways.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Sort of. The Evil Ice Cream Man himself doesn't have red eyes, but during the opening dream sequence as well as one brief moment when Max explains who he is to the audience, his eyes glow red.
  • Revenge by Proxy: After being horribly pranked by Max, Jindrake responds by canceling after school programs. Of course he was already embezzling money from these programs, but he wanted Max to look like the culprit.
  • Running Gag: Robe's willingness to eat anything; Jindrake's poor mastery of the English language and him forgetting to turn off the camera (at first); the Yearbook guys, just to name a few.
  • Russian Guy Suffers Most: Inverted: A student named "Vladimir" (which is a Russian name, which implies Russian descent) was intended to be one of the victims to Troy McGinty's bullying routine; he had his name written on his shirt in a way similar to a gash. But unlike Max or Robe, the other on-screen victims, Vladimir ran off before McGinty could get the chance to deal the pain.
  • Sadist Principal: Jindrake.
  • Show Some Leg: Jenna subtlety seduces Max into coming with her to a party.
  • Silence, You Fool!: Principle Jindrake frequently yells "CEASE!" whenever he wants everyone to be silent.
  • Squirrels in My Pants: At one point, thanks to Jindrake unknowingly spraying animal pheromones into his mouth (Max had rigged his breath spray supply with mating pheromones), a squirrel enters the library and crawls all over Jindrake, eventually culminating in the squirrel giving Jindrake an implied groin attack before it leaves due to Jindrake crashing into the other room, all while the superintendent is observing the library without any notice.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: See "Oh, Crap!" above.
  • The Trouble with Tickets: The Evil Ice Cream Man ends up being pulled over by a policeman while chasing down Max Keeble for speeding and presumably attempted manslaughter. The Evil Ice Cream Man then tries to get out of the situation by bribing the Policeman with a Snow-Doodle. Going by what happens immediately thereafter, the Policeman didn't accept the bribe.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Jindrake embodies this.
    "My, you're a smart little boy... But so am I."
  • Those Two Guys: The two guys who work for the newspaper
  • Title Drop: Well, half of the title. "Ready for the big move?"
    • Or "Not moving was the biggest move of all."
  • To the Pain: Jindrake, threatening Max with a new form of punishment he calls "The Keeble." Which, thankfully, never got a chance to be implemented. Then again, maybe it did, assuming his locking Max within the janitor's closet was supposed to be the punishment in question.
  • Toilet Humor: Robe getting sick due to his claustrophobia springs to mind.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The ending where Jindrake ends up drawing all of the animals to himself when attempting to destroy the Animal shelter by using his breath spray. Jindrake, you'd think that by now you'd at least put two-and-two together in regards to the connections between the animals reacting and you using the spray, since it has occurred at least twice before (three times before if one counts a deleted scene where, shortly after Jindrake does a breath spray during his tour of the school for the Superintendent, a dog escapes from a woman's car and proceeds to attack his pants leg.)
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The original trailer pretty much spoils the big plot twist.
  • Trapped in Containment: McGinty, when picking Robe as the second kid to bully in the school year, places Robe in a glass case (presumably some sort of trophy case). Made even worse due to the fact that Robe is severely claustrophobic, and just as Max Keeble is alerting the students about his condition after freeing him, he throws up from the trauma (the contents apparently being a chili omelette, given Robe's comment shortly after hurling).
  • Two Guys and a Girl: With Max, Robe, and Megan.
  • Two-Timer Date: Of the third category, where Max goes to a milkshake party with Jenna's friends instead of the going away party held by Robe and Megan. See What the Hell, Hero? below.
  • The Unfettered: Max revenges himself against his bullies because he knows he's not going to be around to suffer the consequences. His friends, however...
  • Unhand Them, Villain!: At the end of the movie, the three giant exchange students offer to throw the school bullies in a dumpster. After Max insists "If you bully them, you will be just like them!", he tells them to let the bullies go, which, of course, they do — and let them fall into the dumpster themselves.
    • Also, just as Principal Jindrake is about to run his big bulldozer over a poor defenseless animal, Max jumps in front of it and says: "Not today, Jindrake. That's far enough."
  • Vague Age: Troy McGinty appears to be about Max's age in a flashback when they were preschool age, but present day he appears to be a few years older. It's also implied that he had been attending the school already where this was Max's first year.
    • The foreign football players are apparently young enough to be students, though they look more like they're in their 20s, one of them even has a beard.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Dobbs utterly goes to pieces when his PDA is stolen.
    • He has it easy compared to McGinty when he was trapped in a Gym with its power cut with MacGoogles. The guy was in such a massive emotional and mental wreck that he was huddled in a corner quivering while in a fetal position, barely even able to speak, and was also implied to be in dire need of psychological counseling in a manner similar to having to deal with PTSD.
  • Villainous Friendship: McGinty and Dobbs do their bullying separately, though this doesn't stop them from being civil and even friendly to each other.
  • Visual Pun: Upon learning that they won't be moving, Lily remarks that Don will now be the big cheese. During this scene, Don Keeble is wearing a Cheese costume (making him quite literally the big cheese).
  • We Used to Be Friends: Max and Troy used to be friends until Max's birthday when the kids made fun of him for being afraid of MacGoogles the Highland Frog. Even as he got older, Troy is absolutely terrified of MacGoogles until he gets over it in therapy.
  • Wham Line: When Max is informed he's not moving away after all.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: On the last day before the move, Max accepted Jenna's invitation to have a milkshake party, when he was supposed to go to a going away party held by Megan and Robe. Suffice to say, as soon as they found out about this, they weren't pleased.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Big brute of a bully Troy is terrified of a Barney-like children's TV show named MacGoogles the Highland Frog (The trauma was made even worse when Mr. Keeble tries to reveal that he's actually MacGoogles, not because of it's an adult playing the role, but because he actually thought that MacGoogles ate Mr. Keeble). He eventually manages to get over it, after the school nurse attempts to help him eliminate the psychological trauma of the event.
  • Young Entrepreneur: Dobbs is a Wall Street-smart kid who steals lunch money on the pretense that he's "investing" it.
  • Zany Scheme: The various plots to ruin the bullies — stealing Dobbs' PDA, melting the Evil Ice Cream Man's ice cream supply, terrorizing Troy with a mascot of a children's TV show, and setting Jindrake up for a Humiliation Conga.