Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010)

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Andrew INDIFFERENTThere's a poor choice of direction at the center of Diary of a Wimpy Kid that pushes it ever so slightly away from recommendable territory.  There were a lot of little touches that made me laugh, and a few that were nicely observant of middle school, but the main character is an unbelievable jerk.  Was he this way in the books?  Can't say, I just have to report what I see in the movie, and hope that the written word portrays him a little better.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is one of those films that seems to try and recall childhood as it looked to the participants.  Our "hero" Greg (Zachary Gordon) is starting middle school and looking to make his mark.  Unforunately, he's weighed down by his supposedly obnoxious best friend Rowley (Robert Capron), and the thoroughly disgusting clinger Fregley (Grayson Russell).  So we spend the length of the movie hanging around Greg, listening to his inner monologue as he tries to make sense of his surroundings.

Occasionally, I really like what he had to say, as well as the way middle school is presented.  I'm still having a difficult time pinpointing another point in anyone's life that is more awkward than middle school (I know mine was wretched) and it's all spot on.  Everyone grown a couple of feet over the summer, some folks spout hair in amazing amounts, development beings in a few ways...it's all strange to go through and the film recognizes that.

The visuals pop in a very charming way.  The books are filled with little illustrations of Greg's life, and those make a few appearances in the film as short animated clips.  They never intrude and are always used at key moments where the film realizes we may be picturing what some scenarios look like (for example, being trapped on a desert island with the most disgusting person you know).  The remaining style has a lot of life, and there were a few sequences that remembered exactly what it's like to be in some of those awkward middle school situations.  Did it always feel like the "losers" got stuck on the same team in sports?  'Cause it did to me.

The big problem is the way that the Greg is presented.  When I said that he was an unbelievable jerk, I mean it as much as I can mean anything I write.  He's horrible to his best friend, plays stupid tricks on his family, is completely obsessed with his image, holds himself above everyone else and spoils most chances to redeem himself.  This isn't any fault of the actor playing him, who does a pretty good job, but a fundamental failure at the writing level of the film.  You can spend a lot of time with unlikable people in movies, but this kid is a total brat and I would have given him a good parental smack a long time ago.

Another unfortunate factor is the way the film is obsessed with bodily functions.  Middle school is about the time when kids start growing out of that phase (though some never do) and Fregley is a reminder of how disgusting our bodies can be.  I can't even see goo obsessed kids being able to get past how unclean Fregley made me feel any time he was onscreen.  I'll give the kid this much credit, he threw himself into the role with heedless abandon, but I could have lived without the close up of a hair growing out of his wart.

However, Greg's best friend Rowley?  I could have watched an entire movie based on that kid.  He is so completely and totally comfortable with being himself that, at times, it's an absolute joy to watch him just exist next to the self obsessed Greg.  No matter the situation, he tosses it off with a shrug and a smile, and is never embarrassed at doing or saying what comes natural to him.  He gets a lot of the best lines in the movie, and later on during a Mother and Son dance he and his mom dance to "Intergalactic" in a way that had me chuckling the entire time.

It's weird that they were able to get Rowley, and pretty much everything else in the movie right, yet get Greg so wrong.  It's not fun spending an hour and a half with this kid, even with the perpetually sunny Rowley moments away from doing or saying something else that really is fun.  So as I've been saying a lot this year, nice try, but no dice.

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010)

Directed by Thor Freudenthal.
Written by Jackie and Jeff Filgo, Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah.
Starring Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Grayson Russell, Steve Zahn and Rachael Harris.

Posted by Andrew

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