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Movie Review: "Diary of a Wimpy Kid"

By It's My Life on March 20, 2010 9:57 PM | No TrackBacks

wimpy-kid_tree.jpgGreg Heffley hates middle school, but he's determined not to let it destroy him. The key to surviving, he thinks, is popularity, and he's got a sure-fire scheme (actually a bunch of them) to become the A-number one cool kid in the school. But his bullying wanna-be rock star older brother Rodrick and goofball best friend Rowley aren't making his rise to the top of the social-status ladder any easier. Of course, losing a wrestling match to a girl and having to eat lunch on the cafeteria floor don't help much either. Can Greg overcome these obstacles and rule the school? Well, when the title of the story is "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," that's probably not gonna happen. But although Greg is doomed to failure from the start, it's funny to watch him try his best to make it. Too bad his "best" is usually also his "worst."

Based on your posts to our My Favorite Author and My Favorite Book You Said It pages, we know that a lot of you are fans of Jeff Kinney's illustrated "Wimpy Kid" books. So how was this much-anticipated movie adaptation?  Let's break it down, IML-style:

Here's what we liked:

Middle school life. The movie does a great job of capturing what it's like to be in middle school, from the anxiety of finding somewhere to sit in the cafeteria, to the pain of being thrown into a gym class with kids three times your size. There's even a hilarious running gag about a cursed slice of cheese that's been on the playground blacktop for years...just like we had at the middle school we went to. Oh, wait. We didn't have cursed cheese. But everything else felt very familiar!

Rowley.  Robert Capron plays Greg's socially-inept best pal Rowley, and he's great. Funny, likable and just plain nice, Rowley is the heart of the movie. He's even friends with his own mom, if you can believe that.

Angie. The awesome Chloe Moretz plays a live-by-her-own rules outsider who refuses to buy into the popularity game. She's exactly the type of friend Greg should be reaching out to for help, but he doesn't know it. Too bad this character is barely in the movie; we wanted to see a lot more of her!

Sibling rivalry. Just like in the books, the constant fighting and pranks between Greg and older bro Roderick provide a lot of the laughs in the movie. They aren't exactly subtle laughs, but we'll take what we can get.

Now, here's what we didn't like:

The sketchiness. We don't mean "sketchy" as in "creepy." We mean the movie sometimes  feels like a bunch of sketches that aren't connected by much. The main story centers on Greg's quest for middle-school fame and his relationship with Rowley, but lots of scenes don't seem to have much payoff, and the plot feels kind of thin.

The parents. Steve Zahn and Rachael Harris play Greg's mom and dad, and they act like somebody forced them at gunpoint to be in this movie. They certainly aren't having any fun with their roles, and it isn't any fun to watch them, either.

wimpy-kid.jpgGreg. It's weird to say this, but the thing we liked least about this movie was, well...Greg himself. Zachary Gordon is a fine actor, but he plays a character who is very hard to like and root for. And he's the main character of the film, the one we're supposed to identify with! Here's the problem: Greg never thinks of anybody but himself. It would be funny if he were a basically good-hearted kid who makes some mistakes, or gets into goofy trouble that isn't really his fault. But Greg Heffley isn't really good-hearted. He walks all over everyone else's feelings, cares only about his own popularity, and ignores the people who try to help him out. On top of that, he treats his best friend like garbage for the entire movie. It's hard to have sympathy for a guy like that. Sure, Greg comes around in the end, but it feels like too little, too late. You can't be a jerk for an hour and a half of a movie, and then suddenly make us like you with one noble deed, five minutes before the credits roll.

Overall, we walked out of the theater feeling like the movie was a mixed bag. There were moments when we laughed out loud, but other times we were a little bored, and kinda annoyed by what a jerk Greg was. It's as if the movie should've been titled "Diary of a Selfish Kid." The film is good, but not great, and lacks a lot of the silly whimsy of the books. Maybe an animated movie would've been a better idea!

IML's rating: C+

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

So what did you think? Are you a fan of the books? Are you satisfied with the screen version, or disappointed? And why do you think it might have been challenging for the filmmakers to capture the books' spirit in a movie?

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