Like Belle's Magical World, Cinderella II: Dreams Come True, and Atlantis: Milo's Return, the film was a Compilation Movie composed of three segments. Unlike the other three films, however, this one was more well-received, as it was already based on a television series. Although similarly to the second Atlantis film, this movie was made up of rejected TV show episodes. After the initial sixty-five episodes, ABC wanted to order more (whether they wanted a seventh season or another series is unknown) due to the extremely high ratings. However, Disney declined, and put three of the episodes into this film.
The shorts feature T.J. and the gang adjusting to fifth grade, taking place a few months after the events of Recess: School's Out. The stories include:
- No More School: When T.J. and the gang arrive on the first day of school, it doesn't go as smoothly as they expected. The school lunch has changed from actual food to "nutrition paste", their lockers are taken away, Miss Finster unexpectedly becomes their teacher due to their expected teacher transferring out, and to make matters worse, the playground's gone! T.J. talks to Principal Prickly about this, and he tells them that it was the school boards decision- not his. So to protest, T.J. decides to stay in his room the next day and not go to school. The rest of the kids decide to join him and skip school as well. Naturally, this gets the attention of the Board of Education, specifically Mr. White, who already knew T.J. from the "whomps" incident.
- Grade Five Club: King Freddy II introduces the gang to the Fifth and Sixth Graders Club underneath the King's jungle gym, which, as the name implies, only allows fifth and sixth graders (except Randall). The gang like it at first, but begin to lose interest when the other kids begin badmouthing the younger kids. However, Gus and Mikey still enjoy going to the club, and begin badmouthing the younger kids as well.
- A Recess Halloween: After being taunted by Lawson and his gang about still enjoying Halloween, Spinelli decides she's too old for the holiday, to the dismay of the rest of the gang. The gang end up going out trick-or-treating without her, but also notice that the "magic" of Halloween is starting to wear off as they get older. While Spinelli is giving out candy, she slowly starts to get into the spirit again, and realizes (after a talk with Miss Finster) that it doesn't matter how old you are: it just matters that you have the spirit.
The movie was simultaneously released with Recess: All Growed Down, which, despite consisting of three previous episodes, one new episode, and framing material, is still considered a "movie" by Disney.
Although the film received relatively positive reviews from critics, it's considered to be a bit obscure compared to the show and first movie, due to Recess not being as popular as it once was in the late `90s, and because of Disney's poor marketing of it compared to their other projects coming out around the same time. Among fans of the series, it has a mostly positive reception, though nowhere near the levels of the first film.
As of 2013, it is the only Recess movie (And the only part of the overall francise) to be availible on Netflix.
Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade contains examples of:
- Abilene Paradox: After seeing Principal Prickly willing to risk his job, one member of the board confeses that he actually hates the changes that were made to the school, but didn't want to go against the crowd, with the other members revealing the same feeling, and deciding to overturn the whole thing.
- Animation Bump: The animation is better than in the TV show, though it doesn't match the animation bump in the first film.
- Art Evolution: The animation and backgrounds look more like Lloyd in Space than how the show looked in the '90s (Even the digitally colored episodes)
- Back for the Finale: Hustler Kid, Butch, Miss Grotke, and Principal Prickly all return after being brother chucked before or at the beginning of the show's sixth season.
- Balloon Belly: Gus in "Grade Five Club" after eating too much.
- Book-Ends: It ends the same way the theme song ended: Miss Finster telling the main six that recess was over and them coming inside, with her following them. Right before she closes the door, T.J. comes out from behind and waves to the audience and then she slams the door shut.
- Demoted to Extra:
- Cornchip Girl has one line in the film, and doesn't appear after her one line.
- Butch appears once and doesn't speak.
- Miss Grotke was demoted, obviously, as the gang are in fifth grade now and no longer in her class.
- End-of-Series Awareness: T.J.'s wave at the end could also be a way of waving goodbye to the audience after six years of them watching the show. (Technically five though- no new Recess material had been released in 2002.)
- Grand Finale: This film marked the end of the series, although the main gang's (and Miss Finster's) final appearance would be in a Lilo & Stitch: The Series crossover episode that takes place after the events of this film.
- Halloween Episode: "A Recess Halloween", making it the second Halloween episode of the show, the first being "The Terrifying Tales of Recess" from season six.
- Lighter and Softer: Though not as obvious as other examples; the movie is more slow-paced and Slice of Life compared to the show, and of course, the first film.
- The Movie: The second one.
- The '90s: The movie was released in 2003, but it takes place in September to October 1998.
- Put on a Bus: King Bob left for middle school at this point, but The Bus Came Back: Briefly, since King Bob had to set King Freddy II straight before school began.
- The Resolution Will Not Be Televised: This is the true finale for the series, and was released direct-to-video.
- Role Reprisal: Almost the entire voice cast returned for the film, with the exceptions of Andrew Lawrence (T.J.) or Melissa Joan Hart (Becky).
- Series Continuity Error: In "No More School", the kindergarteners shown are all the same kindergarteners from the year before, yet in "Grade Five Club", Tubby and Hector are in first grade. Is it that possible that almost all the kindergarteners were held back? Maybe Hector and Tubby were 5 years old in the Series while the other children in the Kindergarten who are still shown there, were only 4 years old.
- Status Quo Is God: Even after T.J. gave Becky's diary back and their brother-sister bond was repaired, she goes back to being a jerk in the movie.
- Stealth Pun: Spinelli makes one when the gang go and see T.J. in "No More School" and are greeted at the door by Becky.Becky: Now, excuse me, little kiddies, normal people like me have to get to class.Spinelli: Let's hope it's at obedience school!note .
- Temporary Bulk Change: In "Grade Five Club", Gus begins eating too much at the Fifth and Sixth Graders Club, and gains weight as a result. He remains this way until the next segment.
- They Changed It, Now It Whomps: In-universe. This is the reaction most of the kids have to the changes Third Street School underwent in "No More School".
- Vocal Evolution: Almost all the kids voiced by real kids in the show have lower voices in the film, due to most of the kids now in their late teens or early 20s. Mikey and Gus are the most notable examples.