March 14, 2010
Review - " Diary of a Wimpy Kid " - (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Directed by: Thor Freudenthal
Starring: Zachary Gordon, Steve Zahn, Devon Bostick, Chloe Grace Moretz
Meet the kid who made “wimpy” cool, in a family comedy motion picture based
on the best-selling illustrated novel Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, the
first in a series that has thus far sold 28 million books. "Diary of a Wimpy Kid"
chronicles the adventures of wisecracking pre-teen Greg Heffley, who must
somehow survive the scariest time of anyone’s life….middle school.
To Greg Heffley, middle school is the dumbest idea ever invented. It’s a place
rigged with hundreds of social landmines, not the least of which are morons,
wedgies, swirlies, bullies, lunchtime banishment to the cafeteria floor – and a
festering piece of cheese with nuclear cooties. To survive the never-ending
ordeal and attain the recognition and status he feels he so richly deserves,
Greg devises an endless series of can’t-miss schemes, all of which, of course,
go awry. And he’s getting it all down on paper, via a diary – “it’s NOT a diary,
it's a journal!” Greg insists, preferring the less-sissyfied designation – filled with
his opinions, thoughts, tales of family trials and tribulations, and (would-be)
schoolyard triumphs. “One day when I’m famous,” writes Greg, “I’ll have better
things to do than answer peoples’ stupid questions all day.” So was born the
Wimpy Kid’s diary
The semi-good news. The film’s “hero” is Greg Heffley, a full-of-himself 12-year-old who’s just entering middle school and is
the picture of self-confidence. He’s normal, he tells us in voiceover, and everyone around him is a moron. This wisecracker
has big plans to become popular and get ahead in the world, but he has a few lessons to learn about loyalty and friendship
along the way. Played by Zachary Gordon with a great deal of enthusiasm and, late in the film, some well placed self-doubt,
he’s a complicated character who some young viewers are going to root for, but others will find rather distasteful.
Then there are Greg’s cohorts in the story.
The character of Rowley (Robert Capron) is
supposed to be a good-hearted dummy.
The character of Fregley (Grayson Russell)
is the kind of freaky, wimpy kid no one wants
to have lunch with. The character of Patty
(Laine MacNeil) is a nasty shrew in the
making. It would appear that director Thor
Freudenthal (best known for directing “Hotel
for Dogs”) had each of these young actors
simply turn it up, let their characters’ traits run
wild. Fregley is someone you’d try to have
quarantined, and Patty ... well, Patty could
stand a switch to decaf. I feel like special
credit should be given to Robert Capron, the
12-year-old actor playing Rowley. What was
created as a cartoon character, a chubby
pre-teen with a bowl haircut who hasn't quite made the transition from childhood to adolescence, feels like a remarkably
real person. Many times, Rowley's blissful ignorance is the element that keeps Diary of a Wimpy Kid from feeling too mean-
spirited. Capron plays him about as realistic as he possibly can. Considering that he's supposed to be a bit of a joke in
Greg's eyes, Rowley's charm ends up making Greg seem even worse.
The most interesting character in the film (the best actor as well) is Angie (Chloe Moretz), the “arty” girl who’s first seen
reading a copy of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” and who tries to open Greg’s eyes to what’s going on at school. Unfortunately,
the script keeps her part down to a few cameos. The same goes for Greg’s parents, played by Steve Zahn and Rachael
Harris, who aren’t much more than shadows who’ve come to pick up a paycheck.
The film does stick to the story of
Greg and Rowley being friends,
then having that friendship
challenged by selfish, cowardly
acts. And there’s a strong
message that this is without a
doubt the wrong way to behave.
But, for those who are easily
pleased, and who like things in
basic black and white, maybe the
film will be a fun escape. It has at
least one other thing going for it
that the book's fans are going to
crave: There’s plenty of cheese.