Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

I don’t venture too far into those films (animated and live action) that are geared towards kids but also attract adult viewers.  It’s just not something I am terribly interested in.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid is the exception to this rule for no better reason than I stumbled onto the franchise while looking for books to buy for my niece.  The written works are well done relative to other children’s books and the first two film entries have done them justice by featuring some light-hearted family fare.  Unfortunately, the third time is not the charm for this franchise as Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is short on laughs and pales in comparison to its predecessors.

The plot follows Zachary Gordon’s Greg as he embarks on summer vacation.  When his dreams of salting the summer away playing video games goes awry, Greg must negotiate his relationship with his dad, win the heart of Holly Hills, and mend his friendship with Rowley Jefferson.  As usual, his mother and troublesome brothers Rodrick and Manny are along for the tumultuous ride.

Let me start by stating the obvious that this movie is not intended for me.  I am twenty years passed the target demographic.  However, in reviewing this film, I considered it through the lens of my niece and nephew’s perspectives.  I found that the issue plaguing this movie is that the plot gets stuck between the youthful hijinks of the earlier films and a desire to transition into a movie that caters to a maturing audience.  The intricasies of the father / son relationship that are addressed are by no means heavy, but in trying to approach this subject the way it does, it loses the franchise’s signature fun and humor.  There’s nothing wrong with evolving and maturing, but for it to work, the film must maintain the core elements that attracted fans in the first place.

As for the cast, the work as a whole is merely satisfactory though I admit it is tough to judge with a critical eye as this movie is intended for a younger audience and that defines the performances.  Zachary Gordon as protagonist Greg Heffley has defined the character cinematically and his performance remains consistent.  Steve Zahn is a seasoned veteran with good comedic timing, but his performance in this movie lacks a bit of the gusto that he brought to the previous films; ditto for Rachael Harris as Susan Heffley though hers could be the result of a reduced role.  Rounding out the supporting cast, Robert Capron as Rowley is his typical bumbling sidekick self, Devon Bostick continues his roll as the antagonistic big brother, and Peyton List is adequate as Holly Hills.  But really, they are not asked to do much as the plot of the film is a bit all over the place and the plot elements not particularly cohesive. 

I am hard-pressed to recommend this to you, for your kid, for your nephew, or for anyone else.  There’s not enough humor and the hijinks are not clever enough to keep viewers engaged.  With all the programming on television these days geared towards youths and tweens, there are too many other options to settle for something mediocre; and that is precisely what this film is.  Leave it at the very bottom of the rental queue for a rainy day.

Standout Performance: No one particularly stands out head and shoulders above the rest but if the nod has to go to someone, it should be Zachary Gordon since he did the most work.


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