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The Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (July 31/12)

Based on the popular series of children's books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid follows Zachary Gordon's Greg Heffley as attempts to survive the first few weeks of his middle school years - with the movie, for the most part, detailing the character's episodic exploits alongside a wide variety of off-kilter periphery figures (including Chloë Grace Moretz's Angie, Devon Bostick's Rodrick, and Robert Capron's Rowley). It's clear immediately that Diary of a Wimpy Kid has been geared to appeal solely to small children, as the movie is rife with juvenile and uncomfortably over-the-top elements that prevent the viewer from connecting to the materials or the characters on a pervasive basis. (There is, for example, an ongoing gag involving a moldy, rotten piece of cheese that everyone at Greg's school is afraid to touch, with the resolution of this egregiously stupid subplot certainly ranking high on the movie's list of misbegotten attributes.) Far more problematic, however, is the aggressively episodic bent of Jackie Filgo, Jeff Filgo, Gabe Sachs, and Jeff Judah's screenplay, as the film suffers from a palpable lack of momentum that only grows more and more disastrous as time progresses - with the increasingly uninvolving atmosphere compounded by a late-in-the-game emphasis on eye-rollingly melodramatic plot developments (eg a variation on the dreaded fake break-up between Greg and his best friend). The tedious stretch that closes the movie, which contains a dull one-two punch of a school play and a school dance, confirms Diary of a Wimpy Kid's place as a bottom-of-the-barrel children's movie, and it's ultimately impossible to walk away from the film without wondering just how or why these characters have become so popular in recent years.

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (February 3/16)

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid saga continues with this predictably mediocre installment that follows Zachary Gordon's Greg as he's forced to make nice with his less-than-kind older brother (Devon Bostick's Rodrick), with the episodic narrative detailing the various instances of over-the-top wackiness that ensue between the two bickering siblings. There are few elements contained within Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules that've been designed to appeal to viewers over a certain age, as the film, directed by David Bowers, consistently gears the proceedings towards small children by employing a gratingly broad sensibility - with the ongoing emphasis on loud, over-the-top set pieces effectively perpetuating the movie's relentlessly broad feel. And while the total absence of engaging sequences confirms the film's failure, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, at the very least, benefits from an assortment of admittedly better-than-expected performances - with Gordon's likeable turn as the beleaguered central character matched by a strong supporting cast that includes Steve Zahn, Rachael Harris, and Devon Bostick. (It's worth noting, too, that Fran Kranz has an amusing role as a clueless musician.) Really, though, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules remains hopelessly uninvolving for the duration of its far-too-long running time and it's ultimately difficult to envision adults finding much here worth embracing.

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (August 7/12)

An obvious improvement over 2010's subpar Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days follows Zachary Gordon's Greg Heffley as he gets into a variety of off-the-wall situations over the course of one very long summer. There's little doubt that Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days suffers from many of the problems that plagued the original film, including an aggressively episodic structure and an ongoing lack of momentum, yet it's equally clear that the movie possesses an affable feel that places it several rungs above its lackluster predecessor - with the watchable atmosphere heightened by the likeable performances and sporadic inclusion of engaging sequences. (In terms of the latter, it is, for example, impossible not to get a kick out the scene wherein Devon Bostick's Rodrick, in an effort at catching the attention of a pretty lifeguard, pretends to drown and is subsequently "rescued" by a burly, bearded man.) Despite such positive attributes, however, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is, generally speaking, unable to wholeheartedly overcome its persistently hit-and-miss vibe - as the film is progressively dominated by sequences of a padded-out and forgettable nature (eg a long camping trip, a sweet 16 party, etc, etc). The end result is a passable youth-oriented film that isn't quite as painful for adults as one might've feared, although it remains as clear as ever that this series has simply not been designed to be enjoyed by viewers over a certain age.

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (May 18/17)

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series receives a full reboot with this typically underwhelming entry detailing the Heffley clan’s road trip to an elderly relative’s birthday bash, with complications ensuing as protagonist Greg (Jason Drucker) schemes to break away from the family to attend a special convention for video-game fanatics. It’s perhaps not surprising to note that Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul suffers from an almost total absence of positive attributes, as filmmaker David Bowers has infused the proceedings with a dumbed-down, pervasively slapdash feel that’s reflected in, among other things, eye-rollingly ineffective comedic set pieces and uniformly one-dimensional characters. The fairly unwatchable atmosphere is compounded by a growing realization that the movie has been geared exclusively towards small children, with Browers and co-screenwriters Jeff Kinney and Adam Sztykiel suffusing the hastily-assembled narrative with one disastrously broad and unfunny sequence after another (ie the movie, in the end, comes off as a series of pee/poo/vomit jokes loosely strung together by a paint-by-numbers road-trip storyline). And although Bowers admittedly offers up a somewhat effective Psycho sendup in the third act, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul stands as just another bottom-of-the-barrel instalment in a consistently awful series of movies.

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© David Nusair