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Diary of a Wimpy Kid

A movie directed by Thor Freudenthal

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Middle School Confidential

  • Mar 19, 2010
Rating:
+3
As I watched "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," I kept thinking back to my own middle school days and eventually realized that none of them were being depicted accurately. This goes beyond a mere sequence of events; the attitudes, emotions, and behaviors expressed by these kids -- and the adults, for that matter -- are not based in reality, at least not the reality I've been a part of. Maybe I was lucky. Or maybe the filmmakers didn't have a clue. Whatever the case, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" exists on a channel outside my range of communication. I wasn't entertained by the characters, I didn't find any of the situations relatable, and I never laughed or even chuckled, although I did smile with satisfaction when the drama teacher auditioned her students with "Total Eclipse of the Heart," my favorite song.

Part of the problem is that the title character, whose name is actually Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), is in fact not wimpy. Unfortunate, maybe; ever since entering middle school, he often finds himself in very humiliating and/or dangerous situations, not the least of which is ending up on the front page of the school newspaper after being beaten by a girl in wrestling. Her name is Patty Farrell (Laine MacNeil), and she's loud, bossy, aggressive, and just plain mean. Greg sometimes has to ward off Fregley (Grayson Russell), a kid so weird, disgusting, and nerdy that it's a wonder he isn't hanging by the elastic strap of his underwear everyday at lunch. Because he's unaware of his weirdness, because he doesn't worry about impressing those around him, he may be the happiest kid in the whole school.

Should I have felt sorry for Greg? I assume I was supposed to, although I found it difficult, probably because most of his problems were brought on by no one other than himself. They stem, naturally, from the idea that one must be popular in order to survive middle school. He periodically shares his thoughts and feelings via a diary (although he insists it's actually a journal) and a series of hand drawn cartoons, and they slowly reveal a kid that isn't as likable as he initially seemed.

A major source of embarrassment for him is his best friend, Rowley Jefferson (Robert Capron), a chubby, innocent, socially awkward boy who doesn't seem ready to grow up. How much does Greg like Rowley? "Maybe I can fix him," he writes in his journal, "because that's the kind of friend I am." Nice. But the joke's on Greg; his hurtful actions only help Rowley become more popular, especially with girls.

Meanwhile, back at home, Greg has to put up with an embarrassing mom (Rachael Harris), a clueless dad (Steve Zahn), an annoying baby brother (Conner and Owen Fielding), and Rodrick, his older brother (Devon Bostick), who does whatever he can to make Greg's life a living hell. There are a few scenes in which he gives Greg advice about surviving middle school, which include not talking to anyone, not sitting next to anyone, and not getting involved in extracurricular activities. Interesting, I thought -- he may be trying to spare Greg the hardships he went through in middle school, and his bullying is just his way of toughening the kid up. Could it be? A complex character I could actually invest in? Alas, no. Rodrick is a jerk, plain and simple.

I've often complained about movies that do more to deaden a child's imagination than ignite it. "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" does something just as bad: It makes children laugh not through genuinely funny situations, but simply by being gross. By the end of the film, we will have witnessed a booger smeared on a piece of paper, a fart aimed directly at a kid's head, and someone getting peed on. And let us not forget a running gag about a school legend known as the Cheese Touch, which involves a slice of Swiss that has been left to rot on the Basketball court for who knows how long.

The movie is directed by Thor Freudenthal, who a year ago helmed the equally ridiculous "Hotel for Dogs." It's also based on the book by Jeff Kinney, which, I admit, I haven't read. Does this mean I was unprepared to review the film? I don't think so; it's not a question of being faithful to the source material but of how it resonates with an audience. As hard as I try, I can't imagine anyone relating to this story. There is no truth in it, not even on an emotional level. It's a strange and ugly experience, and it perpetuates a sense of humor that appeals to the lowest common denominator. For a truly resonant film about adolescence and those difficult periods of adjustment, I recommend you log onto Netflix and order a copy of "Where the Wild Things Are."

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More Diary of a Wimpy Kid reviews
review by . March 16, 2011
I wanted to watch this movie because I read the first two books and thought they were pretty good. The movie was also okay, but the critics consensus was right. The movie failed to place a likeable protagonist at the centre of its middle-school based humour, thus drowning out the essential message. In fact, none of the characters are particularly likeable in this film except Angie and Rodrick, and that's just because Rodrick and Angie both remind me something of myself. Greg, the main character …
review by . September 05, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Assign Yourself This Fun Movie
I'm a substitute teacher, and if you asked me last year what was the most popular book students were reading, I'd say without hesitation 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid'.*  The cover sports simple designs of mostly miserable kids undergoing not 'The Wonder Years,' as many have attributed this movie experience, but those middle school children going through the horrible transitional anomolies of growing up between childhood and adolescence.      I was …
review by . April 21, 2010
   For pure entertainment and a basic feel good message about popularity and real friendship, Diary of a Wimpy Kid delivers.       Most kids are going to eat up the bathroom and booger humor (sorry about the pun). Most will love the problems Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) gets himself into. There were some pretty hysterical and absurd moments that made me laugh out loud. Lots and lots of physical humor and lots and lots of bad ideas. Greg eventually learns some important …
review by . April 20, 2010
For pure entertainment and a basic feel good message about popularity and real friendship, Diary of a Wimpy Kid delivers.    Most kids are going to eat up the bathroom and booger humor (sorry about the pun). Most will love the problems Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) gets himself into. There were some pretty hysterical and absurd moments that made me laugh out loud. Lots and lots of physical humor and lots and lots of bad ideas. Greg eventually learns some important lessons like …
review by . April 10, 2010
I took my 9-year-old to see this movie last month. He's a huge Wimpy Kid fan (name a 9-year-old who isn't, eh?) and was excited to go see it. I wasn't sure what to expect. I had read the books with him so I knew the story was cute, but changing it into a movie seemed a bit... odd.     The story itself is about a kid, Greg, who starts middle school and his mom gives him a diary (journal) to write about his experiences in. To say that Greg isn't the most popular kid in school is …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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Wiki

The first volume in Jeff Kinney's wildly popular Web and book series hits the screen in this live-action adaptation. The impish Zachary Gordon, who recallsWonder Years-era Fred Savage, plays Greg Heffley, who enters middle school determined to become class favorite. It won't be easy. His best friend, Rowley (the sweetly funny Robert Capron), is a big, redheaded lug who embarrasses him at every turn. Greg's obnoxious teenage brother, Rodrick (Devon Bostick), advises him to keep his head down, but Greg believes he needs to excel at something to achieve his goal. Smart, but small for his age, he tries wrestling and safety patrolling, but nothing seems to fit. During gym class, he and Rowley meet wise-beyond-her-years newspaper reporter Angie (Chloë Moretz,(500) Days of Summer), who finds popularity overrated. Greg isn't convinced, but the harder he tries, the more boorish he becomes, until even Rowley abandons him. After a humiliating encounter with some high school bullies, though, Greg learns what really matters: self-respect (he also discovers that the dreaded "cheese touch" is just a myth). Berlin-born director Thor Freudenthal (Hotel for Dogs) avoids any dull or sentimental patches, which should please kids and adults alike (an upbeat modern-rock soundtrack doesn't hurt). Rachael Harris and Steve Zahn could use more face time as the terminally un-cool Heffley parents, but Harris's rhythm-impaired moves at the mother-son dance provide ...
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Details

Cast: Steve Zahn
Director: Thor Freudenthal
Genre: Family
MPAA Rating: PG
DVD Release Date: August 3, 2010
Runtime: 94 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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