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Western Animation / Recess: School's Out

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Don't mess with recess!
Recess: School's Out (or Recess: The Movie in certain countries) is a 2001 animated film of the popular Disney animated series Recess (released at the end of the fifth season), produced by Disneytoon Studios, written by Jonathan Greenberg and directed by Chuck Sheetz. It was the fourth movie based off a Disney television series to be released theatrically, the second (and most successful) movie based on a One Saturday Morning show, and the final One Saturday Morning based movie of the '90s lineup (Teacher's Pet would be the last movie from the block altogether, unless one show makes a revival of some sort). The movie began production in 1998 (during the show's second season, which pretty much explains how popular it was) and was finished in 2000.

It's the end of the school year, and T.J. Detweiler (Andrew Lawrence) is looking forward to spending summer with his friends Vince LaSalle (Rickey D'Shon Collins), Mikey Blumberg (Jason Davis), Gretchen Grundler (Ashley Johnson), Gus Griswald (Courtland Mead) and Ashley Spinelli (Pamela Adlon)...until he finds out each of them are going to different summer camps. Boredom and loneliness sets in for him until he notices something strange going on at the school. He makes his older sister, Becky (Melissa Joan Hart), pick up the rest of the gang from their camps (unwillingly), so they can aid him in finding out what's going on, as neither his parents nor the police believe him, and after getting Principal Peter Prickly (Dabney Coleman) to see what's going on, Prickly somehow gets zapped inside the building. The gang don't believe T.J. at first, and think he made the whole thing up to convince them to come home from camp, until they see a huge emitter dish come out of the school roof and shoot a laser beam into the sky. Two nights later, they plan a stakeout (with Randall (Ryan O'Donohue) snooping around and seeing what's up, and getting Miss Finster (April Winchell) to try and stop them).


They find out that former principal Phillium Benedict (James Woods) and his cronies are trying to enact a plan to end summer vacation for good by creating a permanent winter. After accidentally getting spotted (thanks to Mikey), the villains chase after the kids, including an army of ninjas. While the other five escape, T.J. is caught, and is put in the same room Prickly was captured in. Apparently, Prickly knows Benedict, who has wanted to get rid of recess since The '60s. Will the gang thwart the plans to get rid of recess and summer vacation?

The film did fairly well with critics (61% on Rotten Tomatoes, just enough to qualify as "Fresh"), and also was a solid performer at the box office, earning $36,706,141 domestically, and ended up with a total worldwide gross of $44,460,850 against a budget of only $10 million, and could be considered Disney's second biggest animated success for 2001 (With Monsters, Inc. in first), as their next animated film for the year wasn't as successful.


Followed by a sequel, Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade in 2003.

Not to be confused with School's Out! The Musical from a completely unrelated cartoon.

Here is the character sheet.

Recess: School's Out provides examples of:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The opening shot of the town and the school. The pasted-in kids' run cycles don't even match up with their speed!
  • Accidental Hero: If Randall hadn't spied on T.J. when the latter was hosting stakeouts, Ms. Finster wouldn't have learned about the plot to move the moon and end summer, and in turn rally the teachers.
  • Accidental Truth: When impersonating Prickly on the PA system, T.J. claims Prickly has a saggy butt. We later learn from Prickly's doctor that that's actually true.
  • Adults Are Useless
    • Completely averted in this case. T.J. made the right call in going to Principal Prickly for help, and Ms. Finster gathers an army of the other teachers to stop Benedict and his forces.
    • Played straight with the police, at least until the end of the movie.
    • Also averted in the flashback, where parents protest Benedict's attempt to get rid of their kids' recess. The then-superintendent also rejected Benedict’s scheme and fired him for it.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: This is how the main six got into the school for the stakeout. Later, TJ and Prickly use one to escape from the storage room to the latter’s office. Prickly even complains about it, not helped by the irony of him having to climb through the vent himself.
    Prickly: I can't believe you kids have been creeping around the around in these vents! They're school property!
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: Outside the US, Myra's cover of "Dancing in the Street" is replaced by a cover of the same song by Atomic Kitten.
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: Or rather, as the police put it to a handcuffed Benedict at the end of the film, "And I'm the Former Princess of Morocco".
  • Animation Bump: There's better animation in the movie than in the series, though it did have a much larger budget and didn't have the deadlines the show had.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other:
    • Miss Finster said in the series that just because she nails T.J. for misbehaving doesn't mean she hates him. T.J. feels the same way towards her. When the Ugly Bald Guy threatens T.J., Finster challenges him instead and knocks him out. T.J. thanks her and she says she's just doing her job with a smile.
    • Becky asks why she should help the gang save T.J. after all the stuff he'd done to her since the start of summer. Mikey responds because he's her little brother and he needs her. She promptly joins them.
    • And at the end when T.J. gives Becky back her journal that he'd been using as a blackmail tool. Doubly so when he reveals to his friends that the copies he'd said he made weren't real.
  • Badass Adorable: The main six again, but now Turned Up to Eleven in their badassery.
  • Badass Teacher: We already knew Ms. Finster was a badass, but she rallies all of the teachers to come and take Benedict down. Some don't do more than knock out a few Mooks but Ms. Grotke launches a Curb-Stomp Battle against them.
  • Best Served Cold: Benedict took roughly three decades to get to the point where he could take revenge on Principal Prickly and Third Street School.
  • Big Bad: Dr. Benedict is the leader and instigator of the nefarious plot to end recess.
  • Big "NO!": Done by Mikey when he finds out the villain's plan then again at the climax when the beam's about to be engaged right before Miss Finster bursts in.
  • Big Whomping Heroes: The teachers.
  • Big Whomping Movie: From TV-Y7-rated Hogan's Heroes-style hustling antics up to saving the world from a man trying to bring a new Ice Age (for the stupidest reason possible).
  • Black Belt in Origami: T.J. yells this as he's being dragged away by mooks.
  • Bland-Name Product: Off to the left of one of the overhead shots of the school is a Raskin-Bobbins ice cream shop.
  • Brick Joke
    • In the ending, Prickly says that he hasn't forgotten about T.J.'s comment about his rear end, which was part of a prank T.J. pulled at the start of the movie.
    • T.J.'s disbelief that Finster was a looker.
    • Randall's the only other kid stuck in town during summer vacation. He spies on T.J. and reports to Ms. Finster.
  • Body Double: Although not willingly done by Prickly: Shortly after Prickly was dematerialized and teleported inside the school and imprisoned by Benedict's goons, Prickly apparently left the school when T.J. was trying to convince his friends that he was being genuinely honest about something up with the school (they found documents that they initially indicated that the staff were simply people restocking the supply room, to his friends' anger), although after they witnessed the weather altering laser in action, they then assumed that Prickly was behind the whole thing. It wasn't until T.J. did some more sleuthing the next morning where he stumbled upon Prickly's golf pants that the truth became even more insidious: The "Prickly" that they earlier witnessed was actually the ugly bald guy incognito, presumably to keep the other people in the dark about what's really going on at the school, and the real Prickly was being held hostage.
  • Bowdlerize: When the gang (sans T.J.) are going to camp, Captain Brad yells to Gus, "Get your fanny over here!". Because "fanny" has a completely different meaning in the U.K. than the USnote , the line was shortened to "Get over here!".
  • Buffy Speak: "Rope with pointy thing?"
  • Butt-Monkey: Averted by Randall, who normally is during the series. In fact, he has a lot to report to Ms. Finster on the last day of school, doesn't suffer any Amusing Injuries, and is the Accidental Hero when his snitching leads to him and Ms. Finster discovering Benedict's plot to destroy Summer Vacation soon after T.J. and his friends do.
  • Call-Back:
    • First:
    Principal Prickly: Why do you do this to me, Detweiler? Do you enjoy tormenting me? Do you hate me?
    T.J.: On the contrary, sir, I have only the utmost respect for you.
    • Later:
    Benedict: Why do you do this to me, Pete? Do you enjoy tormenting me? Do you hate me?
    Principal Prickly: I don't hate you, Phil. I just think you're insane!
    • First:
    (when Vince is practicing pitching at baseball camp)
    Coach: Come on, Lasalle! Throw it, don't aim it!
    • Later:
    (when Benedict is activating the tractor beam, T.J. throws Vince a baseball)
    T.J.: Vince! Remember: aim it, don't throw it!
  • Censorship by Spelling: Used when T.J. is heartbroken after his friends leave for camp, and he's all alone, and then his sister comes downstairs.
    Becky: Bye, mom, bye dad, bye T.Jerk.
    Mrs. Detweiller: Now, Becky, I want you to be nice to your brother. He's feeling a little S-A-D right now.
    T.J.: I can spell, mom.
  • Chaos Architecture: The school's auditorium looks completely different to how it did in the series, and at times it looks as though it takes up the entire building. Not to mention the skylight that appears out of nowhere in the climax....
  • Chekhov's Army: We see all the students and teachers at the beginning of the movie enjoying the last day of school, with Miss Grotke tearfully saying farewell to her class. Gus recruits the kids to help stop Benedict, while Finster gets the teachers as her army.
  • Chekhov's Gun
    • Gretchen's voice-changing device first appears in "The Army-Navy Game" and is later used twice in this film.
    • T.J. finds his confiscated baseball in Prickly's desk when he goes to search his office, then throws it to Vince during the climax so he can use it to destroy the tractor beam.
    • Also, T.J. instructs Vince to do the opposite of what the coach at baseball camp told him to do earlier.
    • The lunch ladies decide to leave a pot of corn chowder in the school over the summer, later found by T.J. and Principal Prickly.
  • Chekhov's Skill: We see the kids learning specialized skills at camp; Spinelli is practicing wrestling, the Diggers are using new tools, and Gretchen is studying moon patterns. All of these come in handy during the infiltration of the school.
  • Colon: Cancer: On Walmart's website, the movie's listed as Recess: The Movie: School's Out.
  • Comedic Underwear Exposure: Prickly is shown in his boxers after getting kidnapped. It was explained why his pants were missing, or at the very least it was implied: Benedict had his pants removed and placed in the dumpster (which T.J. found when sleuthing around the school the morning after his friends spied on them at night) as a means of humiliating him before tying him to a chair and then gagging him with tape.
  • Complexity Addiction: The villain's plan is very complicated. His plan of making children in the U.S. smarter involves stealing an experimental tractor beam from the U.S. government, installing it in Third Street School, and using it to alter the Moon's orbit in order to alter the Earth's climate. It's even lampshaded in the movie itself.
  • Continuity Nod
    • Spinelli uses her "Madame Fist" line that she used in the pilot episode.
    • Gretchen's voice changing device is seen again after being introduced in "The Army-Navy Game".
  • Cover Version: Mikey does a cover of "Green Tambourine" during the credits. This is followed by a cover of "Dancing in the Street" by Myra.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Implied at the beginning. Benedict's goons are apparently so well-trained that they manage to destroy security at a military base within the course of 30 seconds. If one listens closely when the two technicians inside the base attempt to secure the tractor beam, they can hear the sounds of terrified guards screaming as the goons plow their way through.
  • Dance Party Ending: Subverted. The gang's musical performance of "Green Tambourine" happens at the beginning of the credits.
  • Darker and Edgier: Not as huge as other examples, but it's darker than the main series.
  • Darkest Hour: Though Gondor Calls for Aid, none of the kids can agree on anything, don't know what to do (since T.J. is the one who alwaus makes the plans and isn't there), and think the situation is hopeless. This is when Gus rises to the occasion.
  • Demoted to Extra
    • Lawson only appears in a quick cameo, getting sprayed with silly string (another kid was testing it on him to make sure it worked) and giving a thumbs up when the kids are getting ready to save T.J., however, he's still listed in the credits, hinting that he was going to have a bigger role, but his scenes were cut from the final film.
    • Miss Grotke only appears at the beginning of the first half of the film, and doesn't return until the battle towards the end. She also only has seven lines in the entire movie (two of them being screaming). Justified as the movie does take place during summer vacation (and unlike the other two main teachers, she has no ties to the Big Bad, obviously because she's younger than the two and wouldn't have appeared in the flashback scene anyway), and her scenes during the battle were pretty memorable.
  • Deuteragonist: Principal Prickly is this to TJ's protagonist, as he has more screentime and a larger role than ever before.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Benedict didn't consider that by cancelling recess as a principal he'd be putting his girlfriend Muriel, a recess referee, out of a job. Unsurprisingly, she dumps him because of this. He also never considered the fact that summer itself isn't the primary cause of summer vacation—something TJ outright points out to him. But by then, Benedict had gone so far without realizing the pointlessness that he just went ahead anyway, stating that he could still try.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: The kids' performance of "Green Tambourine" during the credits.
  • The Dragon: Ugly Bald Guy.
  • The Dreaded: Even ninjas know not to mess with kindergartners. They turn around and run screaming when Spinelli sets the kindergartners on them. (Hector is among them, ready to rampage.)
  • Dressing as the Enemy: TJ convinces Prickly that disguising themselves as a pair of Benedict's guards will get them into Benedict's lab. Unfortunately, the guards guarding the hallway can plainly see they're a 10 year old kid and middle-aged man and they're forced to run.
  • Endless Winter: Benedict's method of destroying summer vacation. He claims that by keeping summer from ever coming, schools won't be able to have summer break.
  • Enemy Mine: The Ashleys were implied to have undergone this with Vince during the times that he has to skip out of camp with his friends to investigate Third Street's activities with his friends at night, as they were seen choosing the color of "Vince's" cap (actually a mannequin dummy head).
    • Also, the unified front between the children and the teachers against Benedict's forces; even Principal Prickly and Miss Finster are more than happy to help out the gang in saving summer vacation.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Don't threaten Miss Finster's kids or cancel recess. She will make you pay for it, with her fists.
  • Even Evil Has Standards
    • In the opening, when a military base holding the tractor beam technology is being raided, Dr. Benedict asks if the personnel were killed by the stun rays. His lackey says no, and he responds that he doesn't like violence. Justified, as he was a school principal at one time. However, this became subverted in the final battle when he furiously ordered his men to attack both the students and teachers when they ganged up together in an attempt to foil his plot; even T.J. points that Benedict's plot would only cause bigger problems to the Earth as it would endanger billions of lives instead of raising test scores.
    • Also, when Benedict and Fenwick end up arrested in the ending of the movie, Fenwick tries to talk his way out of arrest by pinning the blame on his boss and tries to claim that he was following orders. Randall's, who was nearby when witnessing it, only reaction to it was saying "Jeez, what a squealer!" out of disgust, implying that he felt that Fenwick's ratting out Benedict, his boss, to save his skin was low even for an informant like himself.
  • Evil Former Friend: Benedict to Prickly and Finster.
  • Evil Is Petty: It's heavily implied that Benedict had his goons remove Prickly's pants after bounding and gagging him for no other reason than to humiliate him.
  • Expose the Villain, Get His Job: When Prickly told the Superintendent about Benedict's ban on Recess when he was principal, the superintendent fired Benedict and gave the job to Prickly. This totally wasn't what Prickly had wanted to happen, but Benedict accuses Prickly of betraying him in order to steal his job and never forgives him for it.
  • Eye Cam: When Mikey is waking up in T.J.'s backyard after fainting.
  • Fan Disservice: When the teachers come in for the climax battle, Miss Finster is wearing a lime green spandex suit with visible camel toe. Uh...
  • Fanservice: In-Universe only. The above-mentioned spandex is the only thing that makes Benedict halt his plan for even a moment.
  • Fast-Roping: Used by the teachers during the climax.
  • Flyaway Shot: Used at the end of the movie, and an inversion plays at the beginning of the movie.
  • Foreshadowing: The space camp scene has Gretchen telling the counselor she's discovered abnormal patterns in the moon's orbit...
  • Genre-Busting: Comedy, drama, satire, sci-fi, action, prison escape, and coming of age.
  • The Ghost: Mrs. Prickly is mentioned but never seen.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid/Misfit Mobilization Moment: After TJ's been captured, the rest of the gang return to camp, and rally the rest of the Third Street student body to fight back.
  • Graduate from the Story: Subverted, as the kids all leave the fourth grade in this movie, they still attend the same school in Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade, not to mention they're back in fourth grade for season six, though this is only because the series was Un-Cancelled.
  • Gratuitous Ninja: Part of Benedict's task force, for some unfathomable reason. When some of them chase the group at one point, Ms. Finster witnesses this, is baffled and subsequently assumes the school is now a secret jujitsu base.
  • Groin Attack: Spinelli does this to the bald guy, though instead of kicking him, she headbutts him in the groin. Also notable for the only time a groin attack is used in the Recess franchise.
  • Growing Up Sucks: When T.J. and Prickly are both imprisoned by Benedict, T.J. angrily accuses Prickly and every other adult of being just like Benedict, not caring about saving summer vacation. Prickly goes into his The Reason You Suck Speech and tells T.J. that he and his friends don't understand how good they have it as kids and how soon childhood will end for them. For the adults, their experiences are just distant memories they desperately cling onto as they're the only part of childhood they have left.
  • Hippie Teacher: Apparently, all the teachers were this during The '60s.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Randall comments that one of Dr. Benedict's goons is a squealer as he tries to weasel his way out of being arrested. Justified; Randall would never rat on his boss, aka Miss Finster.
    • Finster doesn't like Grotke because of her hippie teachings and lifestyle. It is revealed here that Finster had herself once been a hippie teacher.
  • Icy Blue Eyes: Benedict: a rather chilling scene of him back in The '60s has him wearing big turquoise Lennon Specs as he acts like the typical 'cool-cat' of that era. But after he reveals his plans to get rid of recess, he pulls them off to reveal his eyes, and the change in his overall demeanor is shocking.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • Young Voices, the choral program that Mikey attends over the summer, is a "training program", not a "camp".
    T.J.: Are all of you guys going to camp?!
    Mikey: Not me.
    T.J.: Thank goodness...
    Mikey: The Young Voices Training Program doesn't like the word "camp"!
    • Gretchen helpfully clarifies that she and her friends are officially "pre-young adults", not "kids".
    Vince: Sorry, man, but we've gotta think about our futures. We can't spend all summer just fooling around like kids!
    T.J.: But we are kids!
    Gretchen: Actually, as of the completion of fourth grade, we are technically considered pre-young adults.
    Gus: And next year, we won't even be pre!
  • Ironic Echo
    • The villain berates Prickly with the same words he says to T.J. at the beginning.
    • Of course, Prickly's answer is ten times more hilarious.
    T.J.: (to Prickly) I don't hate you, sir. In fact I hold a lot of respect for you.
    Prickly: I don't hate you, Phil. I just think you're insane!
  • Irony: Slightly meta. At the end of the movie, T.J. gives back Becky's diary, and tells Spinelli that he was lying about the extra copies he was going to post on the internet. The movie's official site had an entire section which showed her diary entries (Unfortunately, since 2007, the site is gone and the link to the website redirects to Walt Disney Home Entertainment's page for the DVD).
    • Another meta example. Disney was expecting Atlantis: The Lost Empire to be their bigger two-dimensional animated hit for 2001, with Recess: School's Out as a smaller project. Recess: School's Out ended up as the more successful film. To add to that, the Finnish VHS and DVD copy of Atlantis included the Recess premiere episodes, "The Break In" and "The New Kid" as bonus features.
    • One more meta example: the movie takes place at the start of summer vacation. The video and DVD was released in August, which is towards the end of summer vacation.
  • It's All About Me: It's strongly implied that Benedict's intentions to are more for his own benefit than the students'. While explaining his anti-recess proposal for Third-Street to Prickly back in 1968, he claims that the higher test scores he thinks it will produce will help his career as the school principal. In the present, he also reveals to the kids how he hopes that by raising the low US test scores, he can convince the American public to elect him President of the United States.
  • It's Personal: T.J.'s motivation after finding out that Benedict is trying to get rid of Summer Vacation, which they both consider "The Ultimate Recess".
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Miss Finster back in 1968...except for the fact that she has the same voice as she does in the present. April Winchell was probably going to use her normal voice for that scene, but couldn't because she was already using it for T.J.'s mom.
  • Jaded Professional: We learn that Prickly not only was a very joyful teacher, but that he was the first person to talk against Benedict's idea to cancel recess. He says that kids are the main reason he accepted the offer of being principal, even when he himself forgot about it.
    • Ms. Finster as well. She once loved recess so much that she dumped her boyfriend when he spoke against it.
  • Just Following Orders: Fenwick attempts to use this excuse when he is being arrested alongside Benedict. The police don't buy it.
  • Large Ham: James Woods as Phillium Benedict. Seems like his over-the-top performance as Hades wasn't enough for him.
  • "Last Day of School" Plot: As the title shows, the first act of the film has the Recess gang celebrating the end of the school year, while the rest of the film revolves around them saving summer vacation when a mean former principal schemes to create a permanent winter for the sake of higher test grades.
  • Last-Name Basis: TJ with Principal Prickly, as per usual. Which makes it all the more heartwarming when they call each other "Teej" and "Pete" in the final scene.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The novelization came out a few weeks before the movie, causing a lot of details to be spoiled in the book.
  • Latex Perfection: This is how the Ugly Bald Guy impersonates Principal Prickly, complete with Dramatic Unmask when T.J. is discovering what's really going on.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!:
    • Gus sheds his normally Lovable Coward persona to give a Big "SHUT UP!" to his friends and lead in T.J.'s place until they can rescue him. He orders his commanding officer to get in line and starts delegating army strategies. In the end you can see his parents praising him for stepping up to the plate.
    • Spinelli shows that all of her wrestling practice has paid off when she demonstrates some moves. Gus congratulates her on knocking out several ninjas at once with a "flying press".
    • The teachers in the series are generally presented as goofballs who do care about their students. In the climax, Miss Finster leads them against her ex to save recess, Prickly and the kids. Everyone fights, with special notice to Ms. Grotke for taking out two Mooks at once!
    • Even the Ashleys get a moment; they successfully trap a retinue of guards without breaking a sweat. Then they top it off with their "SCANDALOUS" Catchphrase.
  • Logo Joke: In the beginning, the Walt Disney Pictures logo at the time plays as normal...after the flash of light goes by, the main six are standing on each side of the castle, playing the rest of the theme for the logo on their kazoos.
  • Lost in Transmission: After TJ escaped from his makeshift cell with Prickly and into Benedict's office (formerly Prickly's office), TJ manages to report that he located Prickly and that he discovered Benedict's plan from a mural, which was to get rid of Summer Vacation. TJ then tries to supply his friends with a plan... but was unable to even start talking because at that moment, the ugly bald guy grabbed the walkie talkie, and likewise caused the communication to go dead.
  • Love Cannot Overcome: Ms. Finster dumped Benedict when he decided to get rid of recess. He didn't consider that by cancelling it he would be putting her out of a job.
  • Mama Bear: Ms. Finster takes on the bald guy when the latter goes after TJ. As she puts it, it's her job to protect her students.
  • Match Cut: At the end of the military base break-in scene, Benedict opens up a map of Third Street School and the surrounding blocks, pointing at the school building with his cane. The scene transitions by dissolving from Benedict's map to an aerial view of the same street grid, and the camera gradually swoops down to survey the Third Street School playground during recess.
  • Militaries Are Useless: Apparently Benedict had some professional thugs on his payroll since they decimate security at a military base with ease. Either that, or the base was poorly protected to begin with (which is apparent by the visible lack of personnel outside the base).
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: When Becky and Gretchen spray silly string at one of the scientists, he reacts like there was acid on his face, much to their confusion.
  • Mistaken for Spy: In part of his "The Reason You Suck" Speech to TJ, Principal Prickly scolds him for convincing the FBI that Prickly was a Chinese agent, which got him arrested.
  • "Mister Sandman" Sequence: Prickly's 1968 flashback opens with the song "Incense and Peppermints", and shows art, fashions, and slang of the late 60s to set the scene.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Phillium Benedict.
  • The Movie: Of the Recess TV show.
  • Never My Fault: Benedict never wastes any opportunity to blame Prickly for ruining his life and career, even though it was his own deluded beliefs and insane methods that drew him the wrath of not just everybody around him, but also the U.S. President. T.J. goes Comically Missing the Point about him having dated Miss Finster; Prickly quickly shushes him.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The theatrical trailer seemed to imply that "Bald Guy" was the Big Bad of the movie, instead of Benedict, who doesn't appear at all in the trailer. The confusion is made by Benedict's line "I am going to get rid of recess!" (which is actually two different lines from the movie spliced together) being heard as "Bald Guy" enters the Army control room at the film's beginning (albeit as a silhouette covered in smoke).
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Phillium Benedict was most likely named for former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett.
  • Non-Giving-Up School Guy: Dr. Benedict is a pretty dark example for a family-friendly film, with his belief that there is a perfect correlation between time students spend studying and grade averages improving, so in the backstory he tried to cancel recess outright (first just in a school and later nation-wide as Secretary of Education — in both instances this got him fired) and then trying to cause a new Ice Age (an act that has a chance of extinguishing mankind) so summer vacation will stop existing (he even thinks that people will just make him President as thanks for improving the grade average and he points out that places like Norway with their harsh winters prove him right — he seriously isn't taking into account other potential factors like increase of snow days or maybe a more efficient educational system overall). When the heroes point out that destroying summer will not stop vacations from happening, Benedict's only response is to say "I can try" and activate the beam anyway.
  • No Name Given/Only Known by Their Nickname: The bald guy isn't given a name in the movie. He's credited as "Bald Guy". Finster does briefly refer to him as "Kojak", however.
  • Not So Different: When T.J. openly doubts that he knows how much summer vacation means to a kid, Prickly reminds him that every adult used to be a kid and fondly thinks back on all the summer fun they used to have.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We never actually learn what Benedict's "Detention" punishment really is; we just know that it's bad enough to make a grown man break down begging for mercy.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: Benedict's justification for destroying recess? To improve test scores in the US. However, his aspiration of becoming President through this as well as his attempt to jumpstart a new ice age certainly makes it seem more like a grab for power than anything good.
  • Oh, Crap!: When TJ is trying to convince the others something strange is going on at the school. He sees the roof open and the tractor beam dish emerge. "I-I...Aye-yi-yi-yi-yi."
    • T.J. and Prickly when they see Benedict's "No summer vacation" graffiti on the office wall.
    • Gus' C.O. at military camp's reaction when he realizes shortly after mocking Gus for becoming the military leader of the Third Street Resistance that Gus was actually being very serious about his being the military leader.
  • "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending: Using a clear blue sky.
  • Papa Wolf: Prickly is giving a Death Glare to Benedict when telling him that T.J. is just a kid and to let him go. Later, he takes on Benedict to protect his kids.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Averted hilariously. T.J. and Principal Prickly disguise themselves as guards to get past a group of officers. Only for them to see past their disguises instantly.
  • Parental Bonus: The movie's built on this trope. It's whomping Recess, so of course this trope's going to be heavily involved.
  • Pet the Dog: Miss Finster with Miss Grotke at the end of the movie, after discovering that she's a martial arts expert. The sweet part kicks in when you remember that in previous seasons, Miss Finster didn't like her very much.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: After T.J. and the rest of the gang hatch a plot to rally the rest of the kids to stop the Big Bad, everyone in the gang except T.J. (who helped bring them all together, anyway) gets a chance to show off things related to their strengths or camp. Gretchen uses what she learned at space camp to figure out that the laser beam is actually a tractor beam, Gus unites the school in a military style, as a commander, to take down Benedict and his goons, Mikey uses his singing voice to trap some of the mooks into a pit, Spinelli uses her flying press from wrestling camp to attack some more henchmen, and Vince uses his sports skills to throw a baseball into the tractor beam's electron pulse generator (the power core), destroying it and foiling Dr. Benedict's plans.
  • Police Are Useless: Parodied. T.J. tells the police what's going on, but they don't believe him. When T.J.'s friends came by tell the same story, they don't believe them. Even when Miss Finster comes by with the same story, they don't believe her, much to her anger. At the end of the movie they finally get with the program and arrest the villains, and they don't care if Benedict was a former Secretary of Education.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Wearing the same outfits as the other guards doesn't stop Benedict's mooks from instantly recognizing that T.J. (a kid) and Prickly (a middle aged man) aren't part of their crew.
    • While the Final Battle has the kids knocking out and incapacitating guards with water balloons and silly string, one hilarious moment breaks the momentum. Gus shakes up grape soda and sprays it at ninjas. After a few moments, they shake it off. Then Gus reveals it was a trick to let Spinelli crush them with her flying press.
  • Rearrange the Song: After the prologue, the main theme plays... beefed up and more awesome.
  • "The Reason You Whomp" Speech: Unsurprisingly, it happens in a dramatic moment between T.J. and Principal Prickly. Very surprisingly, T.J. is the recipient of it. When T.J. and Prickly are both imprisoned by Benedict, T.J. angrily accuses Prickly and every other adult of being just like Benedict, not caring about saving summer vacation. Prickly retorts with a long speech about how T.J. has unfairly cast him as a villain with no conscience, and that he always forgets that every adult he knows was a kid at some point in their lives and understands what it's like to be one.
  • The Resolution Will Not Be Televised: This was meant to be the finale to the series. And then it was Un-Cancelled.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Dr. Benedict's scientists beg him to move the base to another location where the tractor beam will be more effective, but he holds such a grudge against Principal Prickly and Third Street School that he refuses to do it from anywhere else.
  • Sad-Times Montage: Used with T.J. after his friends leave for camp, with "One" by Three Dog Night playing.
  • Sensual Spandex: And it HAD to be worn by Miss Finster.
  • Series Continuity Error
    • In the 1968 flashback, Miss Finster appears to be in her early 20s. But in "Weekend at Muriel's", she appears to be in her early 20s in a picture from 1952. Does that mean she's younger than she looks? (Or even older than she looked?)
    • At the beginning, King Bob crowns the next king of the playground, King Freddie II (who at the time of the movie, was in fifth grade), due to Bob graduating. But in season two, Freddie was shown in the sixth grade with King Bob. (Though when the second season was still being worked on, there weren't any plans for a movie until the season premiered when it got green lit.)
  • Series Fauxnale: This was going to be the end of the series. However due to the well performance of the movie, it was renewed for one more season. Sadly, there wasn't much to the season, as after about four episodes, it hit the notorious sixty five episode limit Disney has.
  • Serious Business: Benedict is going to Bond villain lengths just to get rid of summer vacation, prompting a similarly militant response from the kids and teachers of Third Street School. The movie gives this struggle as much dramatic weight as the fate of the world.
  • Shabby Heroes, Well-Dressed Villains: Lampshaded on both ends by Dr. Benedict, who wears an Italian raw silk suit and calls T.J. a “rude and badly dressed little boy”.
  • Shout-Out
    • "Hey, teacher! Leave them kids alone!"
    • This movie's pretty much just one big shout out to The '60s.
    • Also, Ms. Finster referred to the Bald henchman as "Kojak", referring to the bald police detective of the same name.
    • The scene in when T.J. and Prickly are captured, and Prickly's talk about summer vacation to T.J. reminds an awful lot of Toy Story.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Even after 30 years, Benedict still carries a torch for Miss Finster, not even caring how much she changed with age. Also, one of the reasons why he holds such a grudge against Prickly is because he revealing his recess ban back in The '60s, destroyed his relationship with Muriel, the only woman he ever loved.
  • Skewed Priorities:
    • Dr. Benedict is often distracted from his villainous plans by the current state of his apparel.
    • Even while he's kidnapped, Principal Prickly doesn't entirely stop thinking about golf. While T.J. is trying to untie the ropes binding his hands, Prickly says "careful Detweiler, that's my putting hand!"
    • As the protagonists race to stop Benedict, Prickly reminds the kids that there's no running allowed in the halls.
  • Smoldering Shoes: Prickly's smoking shoes are all that's left in front of the school door after he gets dematerialized through the keyhole.
  • So Much for Stealth: TJ and his friends sneak into the school to are spying on the Dr. Benedict and his scientists from the air vent and have been successful in hiding their cover... until Mikey suddenly feels a burp coming on and unable to hold it in, he belches so loudly that not only does it shock everyone who hears it, it blows their cover, too.
    Fenwick: What was that?
    Benedict: Someone had better say "excuse me." (The air vent gives way and TJ and his friends fall to the floor) Fenwick, who let children into the school?
    Fenwick: Not me, sir.
    Benedict: WELL, GET THEM!
  • The Song Remains the Same: All of the insert songs in the movie are intact in the foreign dubs.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: While all the main kids have large roles in this movie, T.J. gets the most time to shine, leaving some fans to think that the film should've been called The T.J. Detweiler Movie.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • Double-subverted with Randall and Ms. Finster. Randall, bored out of his mind, spies on TJ and the kids and reports to Ms. Finster when he tells her that they're going to "break into the school" during the summer. Ms. Finster decides to go and stop them, but they both miss most of the action that the gang encounters. After the police laugh at Ms. Finster when she reports the ninjas, she rallies the teachers as an army to stop Benedict, having realized what he was doing. If she hadn't done that, Benedict would have enacted his plan.
    • Earlier in the film, TJ is forced by his mom to go on a "playdate" with Randall; while cycling to Randall's house, TJ notices the strange flashes of green lights (from the scientists' earlier tractor beam testing) at Third Street, only for the Bald Guy to chase him away. This is what makes TJ suspicious and in turn, leads directly to the entirety of Third Street (both students and faculty) working together to stop Benedict's plan.
    • Spinelli ends up playing it straight. She foils Benedict's plans indirectly by stealing his datebook. She was planning to erase his important events to mess with him, but Gretchen figures out "the lady" he is seeing is actually an event where the moon is closest to the Earth. When T.J. tells them Benedict wants to cancel recess, Gretchen quickly two-and-two together that Benedict is using the tractor beam to usher in an Ice Age.
  • The Stool Pigeon: Randall, obviously. However, there is also Fenwick, who in the end tries to tries to get himself acquitted if he pins all the blame on his boss while insisting that he was only following orders, while also offering evidence for the state trial. Ironically, Randall ends up being disgusted by this.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: Dr. Benedict. What else can you expect from James Woods?
    Benedict: I want this machine working at full power by tomorrow morning. DO I MAKE MY I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR?!
    Scientist: Y-Y-Y-Yes, sir!
    Benedict: Oh, dear! I got spittle on my lapel!
  • Swiper, No Swiping!: Gretchen shouts at the villain to stop during the final showdown. He asks if she really thought he would stop if somebody just asked after he went through so much to get there. Mikey asks if he said "please" would he stop, but it still doesn't work.
  • Tempting Fate: In the flashback, parents say they won't stand for Benedict getting rid of recess, but he boasts he can do what he wants because he's principal. Enter the bigger fish: the superintendent.
  • Thermometer Gag: When TJ runs into a screen door and starts ranting to his mom about the laser beam experiments he saw in the school, his mom assumes he has a fever and goes to fetch a baby thermometer and petroleum jelly.
  • Title Drop: The movie's working title was Summer Vacation: The Ultimate Recess, which is what T.J. quotes in the beginning. However, the trope was then averted when the title was changed.
  • Title: The Adaptation: Actually averted in this case, which is rare for a movie based off a TV show. However, this is played straight in a few foreign countries, where it's called Recess: The Movie.
  • Took a Level in Badass Adorable: The main kids, as mentioned before.
    • Gus gets a special mention here, as he's the one who staged out the plan to rescue T.J. for the other kids to follow.
    • T.J. as well, as he's the member of the main six that gets the most focus in the movie.
  • Took A Level In Cynicism: Principal Prickly reveals that he and Ms. Finster used to be more idealistic in the 1960s, when they had just started their jobs. Understandably, thirty years of handling bureaucracy (the movie takes place in 1998) and a round of children like T.J. and his friends made them embittered.
  • Took a Level in Idealism: Getting involved with the plot and confronting Benedict again causes Prickly to remember how he was in his younger years and that the whole reason he became an educator was to help kids. Prickly thanks TJ at the end of the movie for reminding him why he went into teaching at the first place.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Completely subverted at the end of the movie. TJ returns Becky's diary since she saved him and summer vacation by rallying all the kids in summer camp and thanks Prickly for helping him stop Benedict.
  • Villain Has a Point: Benedict wants to get rid of summer vacation: Boo! He wants to get rid of summer vacation by moving the moon and disrupting the Earth's weather patterns: Boo! He wants to do it because he's angry at how American kids are falling behind their international peers in academic tests: B— Wait. That... is actually a legitimate concern. note 
  • Water Guns and Balloons: During the final battle, not to mention silly string is involved as well.
  • We Need a Distraction: Mikey sets himself up for Phase 1 of the plot to save recess. He stands on a stepladder and sings opera loudly in front of the guards, making their superior annoyed. He sends his men to shoo Mikey away. The diggers created a deep, narrow hole where all the guards could fall. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang sneaks into the school.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Prickley and Benedict went to high school together and were even a part of the school board. However, after Benedict decided to remove recess altogether, and after Prickley replaced him as principal after reporting him to the superintendent, their friendship ended. Their past relationship explains why they call each other "Phil" and "Pete".
  • What the Whomp, Hero?: At the climax of the film, Principal Prickly calls T.J. out for unfairly demonizing the adults at Third Street School and assuming that they don't remember the carefree days of childhood.
  • Would Rather Suffer: Miss Finster would rather eat playground dirt than go back to Benedict. He assures her that it can be arranged.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: TJ thinks that he and Prickly in the same scenario as the standard spy thrillers he's seen and that the Dressing as the Enemy plan will work perfectly. Unfortunately for them, the mooks are a lot smarter than the ones in those films and can immediately tell they're not real guards.
    • Earlier, TJ and co., after seeing the giant frikkin' laser beam being fired into the night sky, initially think the bad guys are space aliens trying to invade the Earth, when they're actually the very human villains of the spy movie sort.
  • You and What Army?: Benedict asks this when Ms. Finster says that she's taking him down. She reveals that she brought all the teachers.
  • You Have Failed Me: Rosenthal gets dragged away to "Detention" kicking and screaming when he screws up Benedict's tractor beam one too many times.
  • You're Insane!:
    Benedict: Why do you do these things to me, Pete? Do you enjoy tormenting me? Do you hate me?
    Prickly: I don't hate you, Phil. I just think you're insane!


Video Example(s):


Cops laugh and mock TJ and co.

TJ reports weird, mysterious happenings going on at 3rd Street School, only for the cops to laugh and outright mock him. Later TJ's friends and even Ms. Finster report to the cops about the weird happenings at the school, both with the same result.

How well does it match the trope?

4.93 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / PoliceAreUseless

Media sources:

Main / PoliceAreUseless