Rewind Review- Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010)

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used, on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

With reports already abound that the writers are and have been crafting a sequel since before the premiere the makers of Diary of a Wimpy Kid seemed like they would be getting off on the wrong foot by immediately violating one of my recommended cinematic resolutions (A piece I wrote at the start of that year urged studios to wait on sequel announcements). This is not the case, however, as for the most part there are few missteps and many, many positives in this funny family film that really is likely to please the whole family.

The first thing this film does right was to not fall into the in-and-out no one gets hurt motto of family-friendly filmmaking, which means they were unafraid of a slower pace which feels longer than it is and tells a lot of story. Even better is that you don’t really feel it at all because there’s plenty story there and no filler.

What allows this film to so easily tackle the extra running time is not only the fact that it takes a diary approach, starting just before the first day of school in September and going until the end of the year but also that employs a narrator, the protagonist Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), that not only moves the story along but at times talks to the camera directly, which is to this day a hard feat to pull of but it’s well done here.

This is the kind of film that doesn’t work at all unless its young lead is spot on in such a way that you not only identify with his situation but at times feel for it and this accomplished with deft and ease by Zachary Gordon. If Greg Heffly is misplayed at all, considering the story elements, he is not a sympathetic character but he adds to it a naive sure-headedness that make him readily identifiable to most audience members. Similarly, Robert Capron as Rowley easily becomes either like we were at that age, unwilling to grow up and unashamedly himself, or just like someone we knew- together they make this movie happen.

Kudos are also in store to director Thor Freudenthal not only for a second consecutive well-handled and non-condescending family film (Hotel for Dogs) but also for allowing some reality into the equation when dealing with Junior High School. Few films ever, whether through storyline or casting extras older, realistically depict the chasm in maturity that exists not just amongst kids at the same grade-level but between the 6th and 8th grade- you may never feel that extraordinarily short again as you do that year and this film finally addresses that other realities that are typically glossed over by other projects.

Another positive is the realism of the cheese metaphor. In the tale there is a piece of cheese stuck to the blacktop of the playground and it mysteriously never gets moved and it develops this aura. Stories develop and those who touch it are cursed. The flashback sequence describing the history of the cheese is a great subplot and also when it becomes crucial at the end as it is a great metaphor for the triviality and randomness about what is perceived as good and bad by peers in school. It is truly a wonderful touch.

The only slight issues this film suffers from is in the two-pronged rift that occurs between the two friends, it’s not so much that the rift happens because you kind of see it coming but it’s how they happen. First, there is a disagreement when Greg and Rowley are trying to collaborate on a comic strip for a school competition the reason it’s sort of an issue is a matter of personal preference. Basically, it’s an argument between Greg and Rowley where the film seems to want you to take Rowley’s side but in this viewer’s opinion Greg was right on that one- Rowley’s strip is funny in context of the film but taken out of the film Greg’s is better (Note: on re-views Rowley’s has become funnier in its un-funniness and the sequel deals with the joke better). Where Greg isn’t right is when he betrays his friend, of course, and here is where the moral of the film will come in. However, their rift gets prolonged because of how Greg handles his mistake after the fact, lesson learned ultimately but movie slightly lessened due to it- not to say that Rowley should’ve immediately forgiven it, but it was a sorry apology attempt.

Another way in which this film excels, however, is that the secondary characters do show some reality even if they are not as well-sketched as the leads. There is the Gym teacher showing favoritism in a not over-the-top way to his better athletes. Then there’s Angie (Chloe Moretz) who sits on the sidelines most of the time because she realizes how futile being popular and accepted at this level is if you’re not you. Even Greg’s parents just in how they react to one situation, Greg’s fight with a girl during The Wizard of Oz, is real and happens. Mom is disappointed and can’t even talk to him and dad says to Greg “I thought she deserved it.” Then there’s Greg’s older brother Roderick who never changes and always treats Greg poorly but is a proponent of a theory many know well “Just blend in.”

Ultimately, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a very enjoyable, insightful, thoughtful and funny film about an under-represted (in a realistic fashion) subset of the population on film.