"Max Keeble's Big Move" plays like a sitcom off of Disney Channel or Nickelodeon, but that's not necessarily a bad thing: the sharp, often entertaining film plays like the best of what those two channels usually seem to offer. Alex D. Linz ("Home Alone 3") plays the title character, a bright student about to enter junior high and finding himself with all the problems (enemies, nasty teachers) and positives (good friends, played by Zena Grey and Josh Peck) that come with it. There's the evil principal (Larry Miller, making a stereotypical character far more memorable than it would otherwise have been) and even an ice cream driver (Jamie Kennedy) whose mission it is to run down Max.
The film proceeds like any other kiddie flick for much of its opening. Max hangs out with friends, Max gets chosen as the first victim by bully Troy McGinty (Noel Fisher) and gets singled out by the principal as a prospective troublemaker. There's really no lessons to be learned early on, but the performers make stronger characters than the material would otherwise suggest - especially Linz, who makes for an entertaining hero.
About a third into the picture, Max's parents drop a stunning bit of information - they're moving. Although Max is depressed at the thought of leaving his friends, he's pleased that he can seek some revenge on those who've bullied him (since he'll be gone anyway) and maybe sve the animal shelter he works at, as well. To top it off, the girl that Max has had his eye on, Jenna (Brooke Anne Smith), is now giving him more attention. Oddly, while Smith looks almost exactly like singer Mandy Moore, the filmmakers play a Britney Spears song on the soundtrack whenever she appears. Of course, Max has overlooked the right girl for him, Megan (Zena Grey) all along.
The film's great twist occurs when Max's father (Robert Carradine) and mother (Nora Dunn) inform Max that they've decided not to move - after Max has gotten back at those who've tormented him. The second half starts to bring in the lessons - the importance of friendship, to stand tall against bullies instead of being one and more. Thankfully though, the lessons are usually gently offered instead of being forced.
"Max Keeble" is certainly nothing groundbreaking or even that original. However, it's fast, it's funny and it's well-acted. Everyone involved seemed like they had fun making the picture and that energy shows in the final film.
VIDEO: "Max Keeble's Big Move"'s original theatrical aspect ratio was 1.85:1. Disney, disapointingly, has decided to only offer the film in 1.33:1 full-frame. An additional element of irritation should also be directed at THX; a company supposedly dedicated (although inconsistently so recently) to presenting films in the best possible format has lent their approval to this transfer. Aside from the disapointing lack of anamorphic widescreen treatment, there were a few additional concerns that popped up throughout the movie. Slight traces of pixelation and edge enhancement was occasionally noticed - while not a terrible distraction, they were a bit bothersome. The print used, however, was in terrific condition, with no a speck or mark to be found.
Sharpness and detail were consistently very good - the picture remained crisp and well-defined, with no apparent softness. The film's bright and lively color palette also looked well-saturated and vibrant, with no smearing or other faults. While picture quality was generally a little above average, it's really unfortunate that Disney continues to not offer anamorphic widescreen presentations (which would not only show the film's theatrical aspect ratio, but likely provide a smoother, crisper image) for some of their family titles.
SOUND: "Max Keeble's Big Move" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. This is a fairly enjoyable audio experience, considering it's a kid's film. The catchy pop soundtrack plays loudly from the front speakers, with some slight reinforcement from the surrounds. The rear speakers also offered a couple of instances of light ambience, as well. The majority of the film has the music playing, so it doesn't often fold-up into being completely dialogue-driven.
MENUS: Basic, if fun, animated main menu that's set-up like Max's locker at school.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Tim Hill, producer Mike Katz and stars Larry Miller, Alex Linz and Jamie Kennedy. The commentary is generally just a fun gathering, where the cast and filmmakers simply comment on what's going on on-screen and have fun joking about what happened during filming. Miller's easily the funniest of the five, making a lot of witty and somewhat sarcastic comments. The other participants have their fair share to say, too, though.
Also: 12 deleted scenes (no optional commentary), 1 DVD-Video game ("Max's Halls of Knowledge"), 1 DVD-ROM game ("Ultimate Food Fight") and behind-the-scenes featurette.
Final Thoughts: "Max Keeble's Big Move" wasn't anything too out-of-the-ordinary, but the simple story is told with enough flair and energy to keep it fun and entertaining. Disney's DVD edition provides good sound and supplements, but it's too bad that the studio has decided to present the title in full-frame only.
The Film ***