Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Cast:
Zachary Gordon as Greg Heffley
Robert Capron as Rowley Jefferson
Rachael Harris as Susan Heffley
Steve Zahn as Frank Heffley
Connor Fielding as Manny Heffley
Owen Fielding as Manny Heffley
Devon Bostick as Rodrick Heffley
Chloe Moretz as Angie Steadman
Karan Brar as Chirag Gupta
Grayson Russell as Fregley
Laine MacNeil as Patty Ferrell
Alex Ferris as Collin
Andrew McNee as Coach Malone
Belita Moreno as Mrs. Norton
Rob LaBelle as Mr. Winsky

Directed by Thor Freudenthal

Summary:
Some good laughs and strong performances make “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” a film that will entertain kids while not boring parents to death.

Story:
This film is based on the book series by Jeff Kinney.

Greg Heffley is about to start middle school, but he has a long list of concerns about doing so. He has yet to hit his growth spurt, so he looks like a boy among apes. He has an older brother that terrorizes him and has told him nothing but horror stories about the middle school experience. He has no idea which extracurricular activities to take. And most disconcerting is the fact that his best friend Rowley Jefferson still acts like an elementary school kid.

Greg comes up with a plan to become the 19th most popular kid in school. However, every step of his plan utterly backfires. Whether it’s mistakenly choosing the wrong after school activities or being shown up by the girls, his 6th grade year turns into utter disaster. Can Greg redeem himself by the end of the year?

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” is rated PG for some rude humor and language.

What Worked:
My kids were fans of the “Wimpy Kid” books, so I was curious what they would think of the movie adaptation. Sure enough, they loved it. I don’t think I’ve seen them laugh so hard at a screening. After it was over, I asked them how closely the movie stuck to the original story. They then began rattling off a number of differences. Some were minor, but some of the other changes actually ended up being some of the funnier moments of the film. So I think fans of the book series will enjoy this movie.

There’s no question this is geared towards kids. The humor, characters, and situations are all designed to appeal to elementary kids about to go to middle school and kids currently in middle school. But fortunately there’s a fair amount here to entertain adults. You’ll either identify with your own trials and tribulations in middle school or you’ll identify with the parents who have to deal with the kids. But even I will admit that my wife and I laughed at some of the pee and booger jokes in the movie. Yes, they’re low forms of humor, but when set up correctly they work. A number of laughs come from seeing the older brother Rodrick terrorizing Greg. The rivalry escalates into the aforementioned pee incident that I won’t spoil further (and which I’m told was not in the books). Another source of laughs is the dorky kid Fregley who has a memorable Halloween costume and sets up a great booger joke. So while everything is for kids, adults may find themselves rediscovering their inner middle school kid and laughing at the gross out humor along with them.

I have to say that I was impressed with Zachary Gordon as Greg Heffley. He had the right mix of likeability and mischievousness to make him a believable character. He’s cocky without being too much so, and he screws up just enough to still be sympathetic. I think this is an actor you’ll be seeing a lot of as he gets older. Robert Capron was also good as Rowley Jefferson, the childish best friend. He’s like a kid-sized Chris Farley. Rachael Harris and Steve Zahn make a great team as Greg’s parents. A lot of kid’s movies and TV shows make the adult characters out to be morons (and there is some of that with the teachers in “Wimpy Kid”), but these two manage to come across as competent and likable. They’re one of the better parent portrayals I’ve seen in a while. Chloe Moretz is also good as Angie Steadman. I just saw her as Hit Girl in “Kick-Ass” last week and I have to say I’m amazed by the contrast in characters, though she certainly is good at playing characters mature beyond their years. Unfortunately her character doesn’t get a whole lot to do and I understand she wasn’t in the books either.

What Didn’t Work:
While I praised the film above for giving some laughs to adults, I do have to admit that there are long stretches of this film that will only appeal to kids. Those stretches are either not all that funny or they’re predictable. I’d even say that it takes about 30 minutes of running time before the movie really kicks in and starts generating good laughs. It’s these ‘Just OK’ parts of the movie that drag my rating down. Fortunately there are plenty of moments that come along and pull the pacing back up to speed and generate good laughs. You just have to stick with the movie long enough to get to them.

The Bottom Line:
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” is a movie that kids will love and parents should enjoy without being bored to tears. It’s worth checking out in theaters if you have to entertain some kids over Spring Break.

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