Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a film that kids will no doubt get great pleasure out of, as they’ll likely be able to relate to at least a few of the situations that the main characters experience. At the same time, parents will likely find humour in memories of their days in middle school, though they’ll also likely be able to feel the slow-pacing and repetitive feeling that this big-screen adaptation is thrown off by, that younger minds may be able to look past.
The story, based off a series of novels of the same name, follows Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), a short, underweight, nobody who’s entering his first year of middle school with dreams of becoming the most popular guy around. Ignoring the advice of his big brother, Rodrick (Devon Bostick), who tells him to talk to nobody, look at nobody, and basically avoid everyone at all costs in order to survive the year, Greg quickly looks to find a way to excel to the top of the popularity chain.
Certain things stand in his way, however, and in his eyes it’s everyone else and not him that’s the problem. Take his best friend Rowley (Robert Capron) for instance, who, while overweight and almost instantly classed as a geek due to his choice in attire, is also not afraid to be himself. Rowley doesn’t care what other people think, and just wants to have fun with his best bud Greg, which is best shown in the scene where, after surviving the first day of school unscathed, Greg finds himself at the center of the laughs when Rowley asks him if he wants to come over and “play.” Greg quickly reminds his friend that it’s not cool to say those things anymore, and the correct terminology is now “hang out,” which Rowley nods to in response, as though he understands, when really he doesn’t see why things have to change.
Soon Greg becomes so focused on becoming popular, and remembered inside the pages of the yearbook, that he shuns those closest to him, in hopes of being seen in a brighter light by someone cooler. Greg’s actions are selfish, rude and demeaning to those who care about him, though he is blinded by this fact on his quest for popularity. The thing is, the more he tries to do to become popular, the more things blow up in his face and send him hurtling down the popularity food chain.
I’ve never read the novels, but I have read that Greg acts the same way within those pages as he does within the film, and thus fans of the series don’t understand why critics complain that Greg is a bad protagonist for the film, as while his selfish ways are never something the viewer wishes to cheer on, the makers of the film are simply being true to the source material. While this may be true, the fact is that Greg is a poor protagonist, and I found myself putting up with his antics in order to cheer on Rowley throughout the film. I get that this isn’t suppose to be an underdog story, it’s just that when there are little to no redeeming qualities about the main character, even at an age where some may argue we all had certain aspects of Greg in us, it’s hard to do anything but hope he fails.
There’s also the feeling of repetition throughout Diary of a Wimpy Kid. While only an hour and a half long, there are only so many ways a character can try and fail to become popular before the trend gets redundant. At such a short run time, there really shouldn’t be a point where the audience wonders just how much time is left in the film. Really, that shouldn’t happen in any film, no matter the length, but it’s especially noticeable in a comedy such as this.
That’s not to say everything is bad, as I stated before, kids who are either just entering or currently in middle school, will relate to this more than those who are older. There are funny moments, and it doesn’t feel as though time was completely wasted after the film is over, it’s just that there’s something missing; and as much as I don’t want to dwell on it, I feel like it’s the sense of rooting for the main character of the film to succeed. Maybe it all just translates better on the written page than it did on the big-screen.
The acting is done well by all involved. Gordon plays the role of Greg very well, even if he’s hard to get behind as a character. Capron is great as Rowley, and really gives the audience a lot of the laughs that they’ll experience throughout. The chemistry between Gordon and Capron is spot-on, and you’d almost think that the two had been best friends before this film even came into play with how well they mesh together on screen.
With a sequel already due out for 2011, there’s no denying that the Wimpy Kid series has a following, and that they don’t mind that Greg has very few, if any, redeeming qualities if the end result doesn’t benefit his own well-being. Personally, I think that everything done here has been done better already by shows like Malcolm in the Middle, and that the charm the books likely held was lost during the adaptation from witty doodles on a page to the real world persona of those involved in the series.
I reviewed a DVD screener copy so the final audio/video transfer cannot be reviewed here. In the event we get a finished copy, we can then clarify on how it looks and sounds. This screener had no issues, so I highly doubt there will be any A/V issues with the actual DVD release.
A commentary track can be found with Director Thor Freudenthal (Hotel for Dogs) and one of the writers of the film, Gabe Sachs (90210, Freaks and Geeks).
Deleted Scenes – There are a bunch of deleted scenes, most of which are fine left on the cutting room floor. One, about the cheese touch, could have been a nice addition to the film, but probably had reasons for being left out. Still, that one is worth checking out if you bother with any of them.
Lost “Zoo-Wee-Mama” Cartoons – There are a handful of Rowley’s cartoons to be found here. Because Rowley is a likable character, and has a charm all his own, these quick sketches are worth checking out for a quick chuckle; if only because you know how much they made Rowley laugh while he drew them.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a family film that gets old faster than cheese left on a playground. It’s not all bad, but it’s not above average either. With much better family fare to be found these days, average just won’t cut it. If your kids have read the books, they’ll likely want to see the film, and may even enjoy it. If they haven’t, then I suggest you promote reading and get the books instead.
Fox 2000 Pictures presents Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Directed by: Thor Freudenthal. Starring: Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Rachel Harris and Steve Zahn. Running time: 94 minutes. Rating: PG. Released on DVD: August 3, 2010.
Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.
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