Director: David Bowers
Diary of a Wimpy Kid appeals to me much in the same way that watching a rerun of Full House on ABC Family does. It’s become comfort food. Luckily, the three films drawn from Jeff Kinney’s books are highly enjoyable situation comedies — there’s plenty of endless possibilities for middle schooler Greg Heffley, played by Zachary Gordon. Consider the situations Greg navigates through, including the opening scenes taking place in a public pool: he prefers not to go into the locker room (full of naked hairy old men Greg would rather not see) but is forced to watch his little brother, Manny (played by Connor and Owen Fielding) while he runs through the showers only to wash his hands with a urinal cake. A great way to kick off the summer off.
Amongst the ninety-nine problems young Greg has, is girls. Here Holly (Peyton List reprising her role from Rodrick Rules) returns and gives Greg five digits of her phone number. Greg catches up with Holly around the local country club, the only outdoor activity he starts to like while racking up a massive bill in smoothies.
Romantic about the notion of suburban living (in fact atomic families are still in place, including Greg’s mom and dad, played by Rachel Harris and Steve Zahn) – it is full of rite-of-passage problems common with middle schoolers. Where the Diary of a Wimpy Kid films succeed, including Dog Days – is in their diligence in not looking down at Greg. There are laughs at his expense, but he remains smart and utterly relatable. Sometimes he brings the pain upon himself, other times it’s proof the world is unfair. Smart films for middle schoolers like this are a rarity and I assume it’ll be widely embarrassed both by its target audience and perhaps by their parents.
Consider the family dynamics, many of the members so closely observed they belong in a Duplass Brothers film, including family friends the Jeffersons. Greg’s best friend Rowley (Robert Capron) invites him to the boardwalk, only to discover their house is in a tranquil corner of the beach. When they do make it, the Jeffersons (also another in tact nuclear family of which I believe Rowley is an only child) insist on sharing a single ice cream cone amongst themselves and Greg – because “sharing makes everything better.”
The romance between Holly and Greg doesn’t progress, like many middle school romances, or even perhaps middle school situations — it remains mental. Here is a wholesome and energetic sitcom, and I mean that term in the best possible sense. It knows what it is and succeeds without insulting our intelligence, which is more than I can say for many studio comedies which have little to relate to, and even less to laugh at. If the series keeps turning out enjoyable and fun offerings, they can keep going until Greg makes it to grad school, then of course their will be the inevitable “reboot.”
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is now in wide release.
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