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'Max Keeble's Big Move'

Misfit becomes a winner in 'Max Keeble's Big Move'

Friday, October 05, 2001

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Movie Critic

Pity poor paperboy Max. He's kinda nerdy to begin with, and his two best friends are even nerdier. It's the first day of seventh grade, and his dream of becoming a big junior-high kid turns to instant nightmare at the hands of the school bully. And that's the good news. The bad news, his parents suddenly inform him, is that they're moving to Chicago, where he'll have to start all over with a new set of peers and a new round of peer-group rejection.

'Max Keeble's Big Move'

RATING: PG for some mildly violent bullying and crude humor

STARRING: Alex D. Linz, Larry Miller, Zena Grey, Josh Peck


WEB SITE: disney.go.com/



Such is the classic Disneyesque dilemma of "Max Keeble's Big Move," a rather delightful new kiddie comedy from the studio that invented the genre and perpetuates it here, thanks to a charismatic small fry named Alex D. Linz in the title role.

Everybody picks on Max and his misfit pals (Zena Grey and Josh Peck), and not just bullyboy Troy (Noel Fisher). Equally evil are Principal Jindraike (Larry Miller) and the world's nastiest Ice Cream Man (Jamie Kennedy), whose goal in life is to make Max's miserable. But the tables are turned when Max figures he can go crazy with revenge for a few days -- and save the precious animal shelter that Principal Jindraike plans to destroy.

Max's momentary move away is his license to wreak havoc. The film's funnier scenes involve getting back at Principal Jindraike, who is cutting back on nonessentials (such as fire extinguishers and milk for lunch) and devoting 97 percent of the school's budget to a new football stadium and the other 3 percent to his personal breath spray.

Prepubescent love interests are problematic but evidently necessary and, suffice to say, tall blond knockout Jenna (Brooke Anne Smith) loses out to cute little Zena Grey in the end.

But cutest of all is impish Linz -- a spiky-haired, charismatic charmer if ever there was one, with a tremendously infectious grin and excellent line delivery beyond his years. He's a damn good juvenile actor with a serious future ahead of him, if he's not exploited to death and ruined by his handlers.

The picture gets sillier and less charming as it progresses to the obligatory cafeteria food fight, but it's a fairly thoughtful effort overall with a properly redeeming moral.

Director Tim Hill's previous, less-than-breathtaking credits include numerous Nickelodeon television productions and his 1999 feature film debut "Muppets From Space," which got a sitting ovation from kids and kritics alike.

This effort, on the other hand, ain't bad -- but don't take my old-fogy's word for it. Let your own small fry decide.

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