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Diary of a Wimpy Kid

A movie directed by Thor Freudenthal

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Assign Yourself a Fun Movie

  • Sep 5, 2010

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 curious to see this film, but felt some aversion.  Afterall, how relaxed would you feel after the beginning of a substitute teaching academic year, coming home to watch a film adaptation of the students' favorite book? 

I was very surprised at how much I sat back and enjoyed this film.  I forgot about all the 'Wonder Years' comparisons I had glanced at, skimming (and, for me, cheating, I feel) the critics' takes on this movie, and it was only about three-quarters way through the movie that I remembered this comparison because the film had taken a life of its own.  Despite the acclaimed TV show's originality, I found 'Diary...' to be much more endearing.  I feel this is an acquired taste, but I easily liked Zachary Gordon as the perky, but flawed protagonist, Greg Heffley.  He's not the one we necessarily side with, but his reading is more fluid and less pensive than the groundbreaking series protagonist, but it's really the hand of the director, Thor Freudenthal and editor, Wendy Greene, that keep the presentation peppier and more interesting.  Jack Green's photography frames everything so colorfully, which only goes to show what timing and taste can do to frame any material.

Now call me flunky if you will, but I never did read the book (although I peeked over the shoulders of many a young reader).  Besides the excuse of the dog whittled on my library book, I can say I judged the movie on the basis of its own merits.  However, without pretense, I can say, I really appreciated and loved the way they brought vivid animation from the original book to express the stream-of-angst consciousness of Greg, and it added to the charm and unfolding of a pre-teen world that elicits our sympathy and understanding.  All the fears and embarrassments that come from the engulfing world of middle school comes back  to consciousness tangibly as we see Greg face new challenges as the young, little fish in a scary, big pond.

It isn't by no means plotless.  Front and center Greg aspires to be the most popular student by sheer willpower, and as many middle schoolers can attest, that can be disasterous.  Taking on his--in his eyes--geeky known friends, like Rowley Jefferson (Robert Capion) and trying to do his self-conscious best, Greg goes out for every extra-curricular, dress code, and social fau paux tricks with about as much variety as a pre-teen can to experiment. 

The results can be as disasterous as they can be funny, for besides a fickle student body, Greg must also cow tow to the demands of bully older brother, Rodrick (Devon Bostick) as well as clueless parents:  Frank (Steve Zahn) and Susan (Rachael Harris). 

After assigning myself an evening with this movie, I can safely say I was transported to my own 'Wonder Year' days (which this story surely mines as a misnomer for most us), and I was pleasantly transported with a cathartic humor and love for an ensemble that truly brought humor and happiness to this adult's living room chair.  My recommendation:  Oh, I feel so irresponsible, but, here goes...If you haven't read the book, skip the 'Cliff Notes-' by golly if there were such a thing--and watch the movie.  Then, read the book and make some comparisons.  Now THAT seems like a real piece of work. ;>)  Rocky, JP

* Over recent years, I'd have the 'Harry Potter...' series or 'Captain Underpants...' trading places as the top contender.

Assign Yourself This Fun Movie Assign Yourself This Fun Movie Assign Yourself This Fun Movie Assign Yourself This Fun Movie

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September 13, 2010
Thanks, Devora. Maybe you can see the movie to whet your appetite. Have fun. One of these days I'm going to read the books--at least the first one. ;>)
September 13, 2010
I'll have to check out this franchise. Never even heard of it, but if there are so many several spin offs of the book, the book should be decent. Thanks for sharing, JP!
September 07, 2010
AerineBlue, isn't it like these precocious kids to say things like, "The book is better than the movie." Good for him and when the imagination wheels are rolling kids can conjure up better than DVD's. That's good for kids. Thanks, and --blush!--JP needs encouragement. Yes, cool, but also a bit of a bear sometimes, but I think the children know I care about them. Thanks for all your kind comments. :>)
September 07, 2010
Hi, JP, This is another awesome review. I think it's endearing when teachers enjoy reading books their students read. I admit I enjoy children's picture books and YA books immensely. You are one cool teacher and I bet your students adore you. Keep up the fine work. Bxo
September 06, 2010
Thanks for your comments, Woopak. Now, I didn't say this was a full home run, but in the enjoyment department, I really loved this little film. Perfectly paced, nearly perfectly cast, terrific look and feel. Roger Ebert gave it 3 1/2 *'s and 4 1/2 out of 5 on the Netflix scale. Try it. Maybe it's too cute for some people, but real and entertaining deserve high marks. Respectfully, JP
September 06, 2010
Ok, I am back..had issues commenting earlier, since my comments are 'wimpy' LOL!. I heard mixed reviews about this one, but honestly, it sounds like something I may actually appreciate. "Wonder Years" comparison...hm...nice review, JP!
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 . 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 …
review by . March 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
About the reviewer
John L. Peterson ()
Ranked #99
I am a substitute teacher who enjoysonline reviewing. Skiing is my favorite pastime; weight training and health are my obsessions;and music and movies feed my psyche. Books are a treasure and a pleasure … more
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About this movie


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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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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