Max Keeble's Big Move
Parents looking for a break or a rainy-afternoon diversion have long trusted the Disney label to baby-sit their children for a wholesome hour and a half, but live-action films like Max Keeble's Big Move suggest the blowback may be more than it's worth. Long gone are the dumb but innocuous days of The Love Bug, The World's Greatest Athlete, and Gus, The Field Goal-Kicking Mule, when the only possible harm came from repeated exposure to the slapstick hijinks of Tim Conway and Don Knotts. As strident and aggressively pitched as a Saturday-morning commercial marathon, Max Keeble represents the new breed of Disney live-action films, which assume that children can't last a second without having entertainment crammed down their throats. In the short run, parents can expect overstimulated and hyperactive kids who get fussy when they come down from the high; in the long run, the same kids will be primed for the adult world of gross-out comedies and blockbuster violence. From the title on down, Max Keeble bears more than a passing resemblance to Ferris Bueller's Day Off, reworking the same basic fantasy of prankish rebellion against the grueling tedium of going to school every day. Looking like the understudy for the lead in Fox's Malcolm In The Middle, Alex D. Linz stars as a runty seventh-grader who's shocked to find out that his weak-willed father (Robert Carradine, the least appropriate parent since Jeff Goldblum in Cats & Dogs) has been transferred to Chicago. With only a week until moving day, Linz decides to exact revenge on all his enemies, including a pair of school bullies, the "evil" ice-cream man (Jamie Kennedy), and buffoonish principal Larry Miller, who wants to demolish a local animal shelter to accommodate a new football stadium. Max Keeble's premise leaves room for comic invention, but director Tim Hill (Muppets From Space) doesn't seem to care what occupies the screen, so long as it screams with eye-popping, ear-bursting hyperactivity. No one can sneeze in this movie without a music cue; in the most egregious example, a 15-year-old hottie is introduced on three separate occasions to the opening strains of Britney Spears' "...Baby One More Time." Children may well be engaged by the nonstop chaos and noise in Max Keeble, to say nothing of the quality assurance of Master P progeny Lil' Romeo, but that doesn't mean it's good for them.