Young Max Keeble (Alex D. Linz) is starting his first day of junior high school. After dreaming about how great it will be he soon learns there are bullies attractive girls who don't know his name and worse his family is going to move in a week. Amidst all of this pressure he decides that he has nothing to lose by bucking the system and taking the horse by the reins. Max thinks that his big move at the end of the week gives him the freedom to make that figurative "big move" against all the irritants in his life without retribution. He recruits best friends Megan (Zena Grey) and Robe (Josh Peck) to help him out and they "get even" (with comical effort) with the evil ice cream man the school tough guys and the egotistical principal. While the story is predictable it reaches beyond the "good guys always win" theme as Max realizes he can play by the rules and still have a good time.
Linz is Max Keeble the short cute moral hero. Despite his nerdy parents he seems to have inherited a pretty broad perspective for a kid: he genuinely takes everybody for face value and even affords them a second chance. He mixes well with the other actors taking the lead with natural rather than forced savvy. Grey as best friend Megan the small-but-spunky redhead who dons a different funky hairstyle with each new day of school compliments Linz's performance yet holds her own. Peck is Robe the pleasantly plump kid who doesn't care what anyone thinks of him. Orlando Brown is lunch money purloiner Dobbs who has a minor but creative role as a kid ready to "invest" everyone's funds with--or without--their permission. The adults should get some credit too. Principal Jindraike's (Larry Miller) obvious malapropisms word creations and animal dances lend further comic relief.
This movie plays on all the current fads of the day including sports songs and lingo. There's a cameo appearance by skateboard pioneer Tony Hawk; we hear the recurring melody of Britney Spears' song "Baby One More Time" whenever the hot 9th grade girl walks onto the set; and Max tells us right away that he has "phatitude"-- that is he's got a phat (cool) attitude. Obviously director Tim Hill is familiar with what kids like and with a resume loaded with Nickelodeon and Disney projects it is clear he's kept up on his homework. The major criticism comes with the pretty flat telling of the story: it unfolds chronologically without implementing many interesting edits or camera angles where there are perfect places to do so.