Greg Heffley is the titles Wimpy Kid though he doesn’t quite know it. Greg thinks he is hot stuff and will do just about anything to cement his status at his new school, the dreaded Middle School years. Making this process difficult is a series of missteps and self delusion as well his best friend Rowley who isn’t quite hip or with the middle school ways. Beyond this a number of peripheral characters are causing problems as well as they out best Greg or humiliate him in a multitude of ways. Greg’s journey through sixth grade has many downs as he becomes a bigger and bigger outcast and he must redeem himself with his best friend if he wants any chance of saving face to the school and himself.
At its heart director Thor Freudenthal’s film is about friendship and focuses a majority of its plot to Greg and Rowley’s misadventures and this works pretty well for the most part. There are a couple of issues I have as we go along, the film really slows down on a couple of occasions but saves itself by recapturing the charm that it established so well in the first act; but expect a dry spot or two. The other issue with the film is that Greg slowly becomes more and more arrogant and unlikable. I know this is essential for the films lessons about friendship, but for most of the second half of the film you are left feeling that Greg is pretty much a douche bag and a jerk to just about everyone in his life. Even the “villains” in the film can’t be taken too seriously as villains since they are only villains in Greg’s point of view and when you think about it they don’t deserve any animosity whatsoever from the viewer. The Patty character is the worst example of this as she has every right to hate Greg and the film never redeems her actions and vilifies her and props up Greg’s feelings towards her by the end.
These complaints aside there is a lot to like in this movie and every time it tries to be funny it usually knocks it out of the park. The film feels like a cousin of American Splendor in the way that it interweaves the books animation into the film to great effect. The film also is at its funniest when it flashes to imagined scenarios or past incidents at the school with the Cheese Touch being my personal highlight. I also like how the film didn’t shy away from the recklessness of children and showed pretty accurately what it feels like to be a kid growing up. The irreverent humor in the film is also something you don’t get from a lot of kids films in that it never felt like a cheap gag and actually felt right in the context of the film.
The actors in the film also do fine work with all of the kid actors really nailing their parts. Greg is played by Zachary Gordon very well and even though the character becomes unlikable this is not due to Gordon but he plays the part perfectly as the character goes through his arc. Robert Capron is great as Rowley and nails the silly and nerdy nature of the character and he shows a lot of guts to just go for it time and time again. Grayson Russell plays weirdo Fregley to perfection as well and he is delightfully bizarre and gross every time he comes on the screen. The rest of the cast is solid as well though everyone beyond these three is playing a type and while the do it well there is nothing terribly original there.
In the end, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a solid family film that will have everyone laughing. Freudenthal captures the awkwardness and ups and downs of middle school and we all will remember and connect with at least one of the characters in here. Funny gags, hilarious flashbacks and forwards, and silly characters make the film easy to watch and entertaining even with any minor quibbles that pop up. The film is accessible to all audiences and everyone will have a good time flipping through the Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a B-