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T.J.: So that guy’s some weirdo ex-teacher who wants to get rid of recess?
Principal Prickly: Mm-hmm.
T.J.: Okay... Now it's personal.

Recess: School's Out (or Recess: The Movie in certain countries) is a 2001 animated film of the popular Disney animated series Recess. It is produced by Walt Disney Television Animation and directed by Chuck Sheetz, with the screenplay by Jonathan Greenberg and story by Greenberg and franchise creators Paul Germain and Joe Ansolabehere. 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). School's Out was produced from 1998 (during the show's second season, which pretty much explains how popular it was) to 2000, and was released on February 16, 2001.

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 Weems (Ryan O'Donohue) snooping around and seeing what's up, and getting Miss Muriel 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?

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.

Recess: School's Out provides examples of:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The opening shot of the town and the school, in which the camera does a swooping/panning maneuver that would have been very difficult to simulate with 2D visuals. Unfortunately, the pasted-in kids' run cycles don't 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 to help the students.
  • 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 subverted 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 help the students 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.
  • An Aesop: Don't be in such a rush to grow up—enjoy your childhood and spending time with your friends while you still can.
  • 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 in these vents! They're school property!
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: Or rather, as one of the police officers 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.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: After TJ is captured by Benedict’s men, the rest of the gang goes to his older sister, Becky, to get help. However, she's still mad at TJ for blackmailing her into driving him around, which leads to this.
    Becky: Give me one good reason why I should help him! Just one!
    Mikey: Because he's your little brother, and he needs you.
    Becky: ...Please pull forward to the second drive-thru window.
  • 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.
    • Principal Prickly reveals to T.J. that he watches him and his friends very closely because he cares about their success and hopes to see them move on to Middle School, but that in the end he hopes the group enjoys their childhood before it ends. T.J. does admit to Prickly at the start of the film that he respects him deeply.
    • 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 Teacher: We already knew Miss Finster was a badass, but she rallies all of the teachers to help Prickly and the students take down Benedict for good; she even managed to take down the Ugly Bald Guy with her fistcuffs in order to protect T.J. from harm.
    • While some teachers don't do more than either knock out or wrestle with a few Mooks, Miss Grotke manages to launch a Curb-Stomp Battle against two of the Mooks without breaking a damn sweat; even Miss Finster happily compliments Miss Grotke for such skills.
    • Even Prickly himself has his badass moments as he punches down two of Benedict's guards and helps rally the students earlier before the teachers' arrival; he even violently punches Benedict in the face in an attempt to stop him from endangering the Earth.
  • Bad Boss: Benedict can be considered this when he gets into an argument with his scientists as they tried to give in more pragmatic solutions for his plot; even ranting out against his main assistant Fenwick whenever things don't go his way.
    • He even had one of the scientists, Dr. Rosenthal, placed in 'detention' after the latter's failures with the tractor beam tests; even when Rosenthal tried to explain that the system had a few bugs that needed to be fixed, Benedict didn't care and ordered the bald guy and one of his Mooks to haul Rosenthal away. Whatever 'detention' constitutes under Dr. Benedict's watch, it clearly isn't pleasant. Perhaps most disconcerting is the fact that we never do see Dr. Rosenthal again after he's dragged away begging for mercy; even his fellow scientists show nothing but pity for him afterwards.
    • During the final battle, Benedict gets one of his scientists to fire up the tractor beam. The scientist does so by putting the machine to mid-power in order to warm up the beam, but Benedict (in an act of impatience) violently pushes the scientist away so that he can personally set the machine to full power.
  • 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.
  • Beyond Redemption: Dr. Benedict is this to the students and teachers for his pathetic beliefs towards recess as he stubbornly refuses to accept responsibility for his mistakes in the past and instead blames Prickly for it; even a disgusted Finster pointed this out as the main reason why she rightfully dumped Benedict in the first place. Even when some of the students tried to reason with Benedict before he was told by T.J. about the major flaws and serious consequences that Benedict's plot will bring to the world, Benedict doesn't give a damn by stating that he still wants to try accomplishing it, simply just to spite all the students and teachers.
  • Big Bad: Dr. Benedict is the leader and instigator of the nefarious plot to end recess and summer vacation, all just to raise test scores and restore his disgraced reputation as an educator.
  • 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 to the rescue.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Just as Benedict is about to flip the switch, and has extra guards surrounding the kid army so they can't interfere, the skylight glass breaks and a woman sails down. It's Miss Finster. She also reveals she's not alone; she brought all the teachers. They turn the tide against Benedict, in time for T.J. to help Vince sabotage the tractor beam.
  • Big Damn 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).
  • Big "SHUT UP!": While Gretchen fruitlessly tries to grab everyone's attention, Vince, Spinelli and Mikey argue among themselves. Gus shuts them up with a massive "QUIET!"
  • 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.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: With T.J. out of action and the others arguing, Gus assumes leadership and uses T.J.'s phrase, "Leave that to me".
  • 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 that the real Prickly was being held captive.
  • 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.
    Principal Prickly: Don't play smart with me, boy. All year long, you've' been pushing me... testing me.
    • Later:
    Benedict: A confiscated walkie-talkie... why do you do these things 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!
    Benedict: (chuckles) Insane. Well, there you go again, Pete: insulting me, hurting my feelings, just like 30 years ago. Only this time, Petey.... I'm ready.
    • 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!
  • 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.
  • Co-Dragons: Dr. Benedict's two main assistants:
    • Professor Fenwick, who is Benedict's head scientist in charge of scientific tests and operations conducted by Benedict's other scientists.
    • The Ugly Bald Guy, who is Benedict's lieutenant in charge of security composed of sweater-wearing agents and murderous ninjas.
  • 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 and socks after getting kidnapped. His golf shoes were burned after he was de-materialized into the school with Benedict's tractor beam, and Benedict had his golf 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 Prickly before tying him to a chair and then gagging him with tape. Eventually, after being freed by T.J., Prickly compensated this by nabbing a pair of pants and shoes from one of Benedict's guards after punching them out; he even punches out Benedict in the face while trying to stop him from firing the beam to the moon.
  • 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".
    • While explaining Benedict's backstory to TJ, Prickly mentions he was fired as Secretary of Education after trying to once again impose his plan of cancelling recess, likely referring to the events of "Recess is Cancelled".
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: In-Universe example: the scientists working for Benedict tell him flat out that setting up in a different location would make it easier for them to pull off the scheme, but he insists on doing it from Third Street School because of his history there. Had he listened, the plot would have gone off without a hitch.
  • 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 always 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.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: In spite of the pointlessness of his beliefs and grand plot of eliminating summer vacation, Benedict was from stupid as his plan involves stealing a tractor beam from a military base without casualties, using Third Street Elementary as his main base of operations during the summer, rigging the school's front doors to teleport anyone inside the school in case anyone attempts to investigate, having the bald guy to pose as Prickly and cutting off all the school's phone lines to draw off the authorities, using a back-up generator when the students shut down the school's electrical system, and summoning more guards in case the students and teachers would show up to stop him. Even when the students and teachers manage to fight off Benedict's men, Benedict wastes no time in activating the tractor beam before having the mechanism jammed to ensure that his plot would succeed.
  • 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 the existence of summer itself isn't the primary cause of summer vacation—something T.J. outright points out to him; not to mention the apocalyptic effects that plunging the world into a new Ice Age would cause worldwide. 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 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: T.J. convinces Prickly that disguising themselves as a pair of Benedict's guards will get them into Benedict's lab. Unfortunately for both T.J. and Prickly, the guards in the hallway aren't fooled as they can plainly see they're a 10-year old kid and middle-aged man, forcing both T.J. and Prickly 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 breaks, thus students will stay inside classes, and test scores will be raised as a result.
  • 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.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Earlier in the film, Gretchen tells her counselor at Space Camp that she's been noticing anomalies in the moon's orbit. It isn't until while going through a crate of stuff the gang took from the school to figure out Dr. Benedict's plan, that she connects the dots thanks to Spinelli looking through his date book.
    Gretchen: There must be something in here that'll explain what that Dr. Benedict is doing.
    Spinelli: I'll tell you one thing he's not doing— having lunch tomorrow at 12:22 with his little girlfriend. (giggles as she erases the entry)
    Mikey: Spinelli, that's the man's personal date book!
    Spinelli: Well, it's mine now, and I guess Miss Luna Pergum is gonna be at the restaurant all by herself.
    Gretchen: Who did you say?!
    Spinelli: The girl whose name is in here— "Luna Pergum". Must be some Italian chick.
    Gretchen: (snatches the date book from her) Lunae Perigeum, of course!
    Vince: What are you talking about, Gretchen?
    Gretchen: Don't you understand? Lunae Perigeum is no lady. It's an event. Look. (pulls out a video diagram of the moon's orbit) Once a month, the moon reaches the point where it's closest to the Earth— lunar perigee, which in this case happens to be 12:22 tomorrow afternoon.
    Gus: Hey, maybe that's when that doctor guy is gonna shoot his laser at the moon and blow it up.
    Gretchen: Close, Gus, but I have another theory. When I was up at Space Camp, I observed some abnormalities in the moon's position. I couldn't figure out what was causing it, but now it all makes sense! Dr. Benedict's device is not a laser beam at all. It's a tractor beam!
  • Everyone Has Standards: As much as Finster enjoys enforcing rules on the playground that strikes fear into the students, she is extremely appalled of the revelation that Benedict wants to abolish recess and summer vacation for the sake of raising test scores. She even is more outraged to see that Benedict is more than willing to have his men physically harm the students (as shown to her horrified reaction of seeing T.J.'s friends being threatened by Benedict's ninja henchmen), and that she will protect the students by using her fists against Benedict's men, much to the kids' delight. She even manages to take down Benedict's Dragon from harming T.J., who genuinely thanks her in return.
    Finster: (to Benedict) HEY, TEACHER!!! LEAVE THEM KIDS ALONE!!
    T.J.: (he and the other kids smile in relief) Miss Finster!
    • This even applies to Randall himself as even though he enjoys using his snitching skills on his fellow students (mostly T.J. and his gang), he too was horrified to see T.J.'s friends being threatened by several of Benedict's ninja henchmen. He is even more disgusted about Benedict's plot to abolish summer vacation, given to his reaction of witnessing Fenwick attempting to avoid arrest for his involvement in Benedict's plot by attempting to blame Benedict to save his skin, declaring this to be low even for an informant like himself.
      Randall: (disgusted by Fenwick's pleas for leniency) Jeez, what a squealer!
  • Evil Former Friend: Benedict to Prickly and Finster.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: While many of Benedict's scientists are in league with his plot, they are more reasonable as they tried to point out the flaws in his plot; even one of them wisely suggests moving the beam to a different location instead of Third Street Elementary. However, Benedict refuses on the account that his troubles started at the school and that they will end in there. The scientists are even discomforted to see Rosenthal being dragged away into 'detention' on Benedict's orders due to Rosenthal's supposed failures with the tractor beam tests, though they are unable to protest against this as doing so would put them in more trouble with Benedict.
  • 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.
    • Benedict insists that the beam must be installed in Third Street Elementary (even when his scientists point out that it's an inefficient location for the beam to shoot from and the eventual Spanner in the Works of the cast, a Stupid Evil act twice over) because he really, really wants payback for being fired from Third Street Elementary.
  • 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: Downplayed with Miss Finster as she shows up to the children's rescue in a lime-colored jumpsuit, which leaves very little to the imagination; even Dr. Benedict still finding her attractive doesn't help. However, the students (including T.J. and the gang) are happy to see Finster coming to their aid (given to her Mama Bear nature), so it's the thought that matters.
  • Fanservice: In-Universe only. The above-mentioned spandex is the only thing that makes Benedict halt his plan for even a moment, but when Finster openly declares that she's disgusted with what Benedict is doing, he furiously drops it.
  • 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: 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.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Prickly's plan for dealing with Benedict was to report him to the Superintendent, allowing the chain of command to deal with it. Instead, it ended up with Prickly promoted away from his beloved teaching position into a bureaucratic position that eventually killed his love for teaching, losing his best friend for his supposed betrayal, and his other friend (Finster) losing her boyfriend and becoming jaded.
  • 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 Heartwarming: Miss Finster is hard on the kids because it's her job to maintain order. She especially has it in for T.J. Then the Bald Guy tries to beat him up in the climax. Miss Finster quickly goes Mama Bear and challenges him instead.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
  • Icy Blue Eyes: Benedict: a rather chilling scene of him back in The '60s has him wearing big turquoise Round Hippie Shades 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.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: The flashbacks show Benedict to look like a longer haired version of his voice actor James Woods.
  • 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 same question appears twice in the movie, but the second time the asker is the one being asked, and the answer is very different.
    • When Principal Prickly has T.J. in his office for the intercom prank:
    Prickly: Why do you do this to me, Detweiler? Do you enjoy tormenting me? Do you hate me?"
    T.J.: I don't hate you, sir. In fact, I hold a lot of respect for you.
    • When Benedict has Prickly and T.J. in his office, the morning after they snuck into his office and tried to call for help:
    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!
  • 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 tried to get rid of it.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Much of the students and the staff are this:
  • Just Following Orders: Fenwick attempts to use this excuse when he is being arrested alongside Benedict for his involvement. The police don't buy it; even Randall himself is disgusted with this.
  • Kids Versus Adults: Zig-Zagged. While the start of the film plays the trope straight, just like the TV show, with TJ and his friends working against the adults on the last day of school, this gets subverted later in the film when first Principal Prickly, then Miss Finster, then the other teachers come to help the kids stop Benedict's plan.
  • Knight of Cerebus: In spite of his comedic quirks, Benedict's actions are played seriously compared to other antagonists, as his endgame would result a catastrophic disaster that would condemn all life on Earth. Even the gang's frequent antagonists (such as Prickly, Finster, Randall, the Ashleys, Lawson, Gelman, and Kurst) find Benedict to be despicable for the same reason, therefore cementing his place as the most dangerous villain in the Recess franchise.
  • Large Ham: James Woods as Phillium Benedict. Seems like his over-the-top performance as Hades wasn't enough for him.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: For sticking to his deluded beliefs of abolishing recess and summer vacation and attempting to send the Earth to a terrible fate that no one would ever survive, Benedict and his cohorts end up being arrested and (presumably) sent to prison for life for their crimes, as Benedict is last seen being shoved into a police car in handcuffs, much to his complete anger.
    Benedict: (being arrested) Get your hands off the suit, you CLASSLESS FEEB!! I AM THE FORMER SECRETARY OF EDUCATION!!!
    Officer: (sarcastically) Yeah, yeah, and I'm the 'former princess' of Morocco. (angrily shoves Benedict into the police car) Get in the car!!
  • "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. One of the guards even compares him (the Bald Guy) to Robert De Niro.
  • 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. Justified in the fact that recess supplies her job as groundskeeper. Even when they met each other again before the students and staff fight against Benedict's men, Finster makes it perfectly clear that she rather help out the kids in saving summer vacation instead of joining Benedict in his insane plot.
  • Mama Bear: Miss Finster confronts Benedict when he threatens the students. As in spite of her reputation as a feared authoritarian figure, it's her job to protect her students; she even takes down the bald guy when the latter tried to beat up T.J. out of rage. Even Miss Grotke counts as she joins in the action to help the other teachers in aiding the students to foil Benedict's plot; she even managed to take down two of Benedict's men by socking them in the faces, something which Miss Finster herself is extremely impressed with.
    Finster: (confronting Benedict for trying to hurt the students) HEY, TEACHER!! LEAVE THEM KIDS ALONE!!
  • 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, just because he was giving the students a speech on personal hygiene.
  • "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.
  • Moral Myopia: In the opening, when a military base holding the tractor beam technology is being raided, Dr. Benedict asks if any of the personnel were killed by the stun rays. His lackey confirmed that none of them are, and Benedict is pleased with this as he doesn't like violence. Justified, as he was a school principal during the late 60s when he was into the beliefs of peace and unity. However, this all goes moot 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.
  • Motive Rant: Benedict delivers his to Prickly after having him and TJ captured.
    Benedict: You see, after all those years, no matter how big I got, no matter how successful, I always thought about you. HOW YOU EMBARRASSED ME! HOW YOU HUMILIATED ME! HOW YOU DESTROYED MY RELATIONSHIP WITH MURIEL FINSTER, THE ONLY WOMAN I EVER LOVED!
    T.J.: That part still grosses me out, sir.
    Prickly: Shhhh!
    Benedict: But this time, Pete, I'm gonna humiliate you! This time, I'm gonna prove to the world that you were wrong, and I was right!
    Prickly: About what?
    Benedict: ABOUT RECESS! About freedom, about test scores! I've found a way to prove my theory. I'm gonna get rid of the BIGGEST recess of them all! I am gonna get rid of Summer Vacation!
  • The Movie: Of the Recess TV show.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Deconstructed. While sneaking around in the school, T.J. and Prickly disguise themselves by knocking out two guards and wearing their clothing. Since the former is a ten-year old boy and the latter isn't as fit as the other guards, they're noticed right away.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Benedict will stop at nothing to ensure that his plot succeeds without any setbacks; even when being told about the flaws of his plan and the severe consequences that it will bring, Benedict doesn't care as he still wants to accomplish it. Even when all of the students and teachers team up together to take down most of his men while Prickly manages to punch down Benedict, the latter still manages to activate the tractor beam while having the mechanism jammed to ensure that it wouldn't be stopped; he even taunts Prickly for it. If Vince hadn't threw the baseball at the photon channeler to destroy the beam, then Benedict would've won.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Back in the '60s, as his first act of principal, Benedict bans recess at Third Street Elementary in an attempt to raise test scores, which has caused a lot of depression for the students and driving angry parents to protest against the school. Prickly informs the Superintendent about the situation in hopes that the latter would reason with Benedict and bring back recess to appease the parents. Unfortunately, Benedict refused to back down, so the superintendent fired Benedict and gave the job to Prickly, making Benedict believe his friend betrayed him to steal his job and starting him on his path to villainy. Even when Prickly tried to explain that this wasn't the case, Benedict stubbornly refused to listen and broke all ties with him.
  • 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 nationwide 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: 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.
  • 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 to release T.J. from custody. He even takes on Benedict to protect his students during the fight in the auditorium.
    Prickly: (angrily staring at Benedict for capturing T.J.) Let the boy go, Phil! He can't do anything to you!
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: HILAROUSLY Averted. T.J. and Principal Prickly disguise themselves as guards to get past a group of officers, but their trick fails as the guards immediately see past their disguises.
  • 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: Near the end, Ms. Finster happily compliments Miss Grotke for her martial arts skills and suggests a fair sparring between the two to see who has better fighting skills, though Miss Grotke states that she only uses her skills for self-defense. The sweet part kicks in when you remember that in previous seasons, Miss Finster didn't like her very much.
    Finster: (impressed with Grotke's fighting skills following Benedict's arrest) C'mon, Grotke, I'll take you on. My boxing against your martial arts. East meets West, we'll see who wins.
    Grotke: I don't know, Muriel. I'm only supposed to use it for self-defense.
    • Even at the end, Principal Prickly thanks T.J. for dragging him into what's going on with the school, otherwise he wouldn't have known about Benedict's plot. He even cuts some slack by allowing T.J. to spend the rest of his summer vacation with his friends, promising that he will deal with him for his 'saggy butt' comment in September.
    Prickly: Hey, it's a gorgeous summer day and your pals are waiting. Go have some fun while you can...... Teej!
    T.J.: You got it.... Pete.
  • Planetary Relocation: The main villain's plan involves altering the Moon's orbit with a Tractor Beam in an attempt to change ocean currents, thereby changing North America's climate to be colder, thereby eliminating recess from the US school system permanently.
  • Plea Bargain: In the end as Benedict and his men are taken into custody, Fenwick (being arrested by a policeman) tries to weasel his way out from custody by putting the full blame on Benedict and offering to testify against him. However, being aware of Fenwick's involvement in Benedict's plot, the policeman silently refuses Fenwick's offer; even a disgusted Randall finds this to be low.
  • 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 either, 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.
  • Put on a Prison Bus: At the end of the film, Benedict is last seen being placed into a police car after T.J. and his friends foil his plans.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking:
    • King Bob passed on the crown to another fifth grader, but he dons it for the Final Battle. To show why he became the king, King Bob leads a bombardment on Gus's signal, and throws himself into the fray when the teachers provide reinforcement.
    • Principal Prickly decks Benedict in the face to stop him from switching on the tractor beam. It doesn't work, but the man has a mean left hook.
  • Rearrange the Song: After the prologue, the main theme plays... beefed up and more awesome.
  • "The Reason You Suck" 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.
  • 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.
  • Rousing Speech: Gus delivers one to the kids before the mission:
    Gus: This mission is bigger than any one of us. Bigger than T.J. Even bigger than Principal Prickly. This, my friends, is about the future.
    Vince: Geez, he sounds like T.J.
    Spinelli: Shh. He's on a roll.
    Gus: Years from now when kids who aren't even born yet look back on this moment, they'll say, "They did it. Those kids saved Third Street School. They saved summer vacation. So, boys and girls, we're going in.
  • 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
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sneaking Out at Night: After T.J. can't get anyone to listen to his claims, he enlists his classmates to help sneak the rest of the gang out of their respective summer camps each night, so they can help him investigate without bailing on camp.
  • So Much for Stealth: TJ and his friends sneak into the school to spy on 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.
  • So Proud of You: During the majority of the movie, TJ is annoyed of the fact that his parents refused to believe about his truthful claims about what's going on with the school. However, in the end when Benedict gets arrested after his plot is exposed and foiled, TJ's mother (presumably informed of the truth by the authorities) takes great delight in TJ for saving the world and Becky for helping him and his friends out; with TJ's father wanting to talk to the reporters of how he and his wife raised the hero. Even TJ's friends find themselves in earning more good graces with their parents for stopping Benedict in his tracks.
  • 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 that were threatening the gang, jokingly telling her to go home for a rest while they make a personal phone call to Jackie Chan (a nod to his career as an actor/martial artist), 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!
  • Stupid Evil: Benedict himself, who expresses no concern for the fact that if his plans had come to fruition, he in all likelihood would've doomed not simply summer vacation, but the human race and all other life along with it as the ice age sets in; And as if being fired by the President himself for his deluded beliefs wasn't enough, he still thinks he'd have a shot at the office himself regardless of the inevitable ruination that his plan would cause the world.
  • Straw Hypocrite: Benedict believes himself to be a man of peace who detests violence (given to his past as a hip teacher in the late 60s), yet he willingly orders his men to violently attack the students and teachers of Third Street Elementary from foiling his plot.
  • Surrounded by Smart People: Benedict's scientists are obviously a lot more insightful and rational than their boss; they even tried to persuade him to change the location where they should fire the tractor beam, only for Benedict to flatly refuse due to personal reasons (in his ideology, it only makes sense for him to begin and end his troubles at Third Street School.)
    • Even the agents themselves are insightful as well, as they can clearly see through T.J. and Prickly's agent disguises and refuse to be fooled by them.
  • 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 Cynic: 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. Despite this, it has become quite clear that both Prickly and Finster maintain their beliefs in supporting recess and doing what's best for the children.
  • 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 T.J. 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. T.J. returns Becky's diary since she saved him and summer vacation by rallying all the kids from their summer camps; he even thanks Ms. Finster for protecting him from the Ugly Bald Guy, as well as 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 
    • Benedict also made another point when he explains to one of the scientists Dr. Rosenthal, that when it comes to dealing with a very delinquent student who would claim that he would do better next time, but never did, somebody would have to take action to make a serious example out of the student for his behavior by punishing him. However, he only uses it as a petty excuse to have Dr. Rosenthal punished because of the latter's failure to move the moon due to a few bugs in the beam's system; even when Dr. Rosenthal tried to point that out earlier while pleading to let him fix the system, Benedict refuses to listen and orders for Rosenthal to be taken away.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Unraveled like a cheap sweater after losing his job and accused his friends of betraying him for not agreeing with his anti-recess agenda. Does another one after his ultimate plan of destroying summer vacation is foiled by the teachers and students of Third Street Elementary.
    Benedict: (seeing that his plot is foiled) All my plans.... my hopes and dreams...... ruined..... RUINED!!!!
  • Water Guns and Balloons: During the final battle, not to mention silly string is involved as well.
  • Waxing Lyrical: "Hey, teacher! Leave them kids alone!"
  • 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: Prickly 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 Prickly 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".
  • Wham Shot: There are a few that lead up to The Reveal Benedict's plan:
    • The gang is convinced that TJ made up a conspiracy to bust them out of camp when they find the strange people in school are hauling crates of test papers. Then the school roof opens, and a giant laser shoots a beam into the sky. They go Mass "Oh, Crap!", and Mikey faints. In TJ's backyard, the gang apologizes to TJ for not believing him.
    • TJ while infiltrating the school grounds finds Prickly's golfing pants...and sees "Prickly" taking off a mask in broad daylight. It's the Bald Guy posing as the principal. TJ brings the golfing pants to Gretchen for analysis, and the gang determines that Prickly isn't working with the strange men, he was kidnapped. They all agree, without argument, that they're mounting a rescue.
    • While both are held captive in the school facilities, TJ helps untie Prickly's bonds and uses the air vents to get them out of the storage room. They break into Prickly's office...and see anti-recess (or, more specifically, anti-summer vacation) graffiti on the wall. TJ goes Oh, Crap!.
    • Benedict eventually reveals he is going to get rid of summer vacation, "the biggest recess of all." Prickly points out that's impossible but Benedict shows a hologram of the moon and the Earth. He demonstrates that if you move the moon a few feet, it can affect the tides. Benedict makes some adjustments, and the holographic Earth becomes encased in ice.
  • What the Hell, 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 Hurt a Child: Given to his belief that banning recess would help raise test scores, Benedict doesn't care of the fact that his belief would make children very miserable in life. He makes no hesitation to order his men to capture T.J. and his friends when they were spotted spying on him, though he succeeds in capturing only T.J. while his friends escape after being chased off by Benedict's ninjas, who almost killed Spinelli by throwing a shuriken at her. Even when T.J.'s friends and Miss Finster rally up the rest of the students and teachers to help Prickly and T.J. to stop Benedict in his tracks, Benedict furiously orders all of his men to beat up both the students and teachers.
    Benedict: (to his men after seeing that all the students and teachers have ganged up against him) GET THEM!!!
  • 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 accidentally screws up Benedict's tractor beam due to bugs in the system.
  • You're Insane!: Prickly calls Benedict insane for kidnapping people and conducting mad science experiments to try and end summer vacation. Benedict's retort doesn't really help his case.
    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. (gets angry) I just think you're INSANE!!!
    Benedict: (chuckles evilly) Insane? Well, there you go again, Pete: insulting me, hurting my feelings, just like 30 years ago. Only this time, Petey... I’m ready!

Drop your silver in my tambourine
Help a poor man build a pretty dream
Give me pennies, I'll take anything
Now listen while I play
My green tambourine.


Video Example(s):


Peter Prickly and T.J.

After having helped to save Summer Vacation from Benedicts' machinations, Principal Prickly and T.J. have a little heart-to-heart as Prickly remembers why he decided to get into teaching in the first place: because he cares about kids.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (19 votes)

Example of:

Main / TookALevelInIdealism

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