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March 27, 2011
Review - " Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 : Roderick Rules "
(in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Roderick Rules
directed by: David Bowers.
starring: Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick and Robert Capron.

"You are so dead." Words that will strike a chord with any
middle-schooler who has run afoul of a bully or a big brother. If
you were ever tormented by an older sibling you will surely
relate to the newest installment of Diary of a Wimpy Kid:
Rodrick Rules.

With about 50 million copies of his "Diary of a Wimpy Kid"
graphic novels in circulation, author Jeff Kinney has a loyal
following of readers who've outgrown Dr. Seuss but aren't
ready for Harry Potter. The arrival of the second live-action
"Wimpy Kid" movie will give them and indulgent parents
something to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon. The movie,
which lacks much of the mischievous, subversive appeal of last
year's debut film, plays directly to the middle school set.

The antihero of the series is Greg Heffley, a put-upon
12-year-old who sees his life as an unending series of
humiliations. He's a bit of a whiner and a jerk but always shows
his human side, and we relate and forgive him because we've
all been there. The original film caught the self-pitying humor of
the situation, as Greg put on pretentious airs, dumped his
oafish, loyal best friend Rowley to impress the cool kids and
cowered before older brother Rodrick, a heavy-metal lunkhead.
Greg got himself into embarrassing scrapes by putting on airs,
and life lessons about humility were delivered without a lot of
stuffy lecturing.
"Rodrick Rules" softens Greg's character considerably. He's no longer an endearing, sarcastic jerk, just endearing. Except
for one running joke about giving an even wimpier classmate the cold shoulder, Greg is presented as a standard-issue
nice kid who is often in over his head. His cockiness gone, he's just a passive, reactive pipsqueak - the kiss of death for a

In this installment, Mom insists that the squabbling siblings spend more time together in the name of family togetherness.
This leads to mild high jinks with hard-partying high schoolers, rehearsals with Rodrick's rock band Loded Diper, a
prank-filled evening at the convenience store and a weekend spent in exile at Grandpa's retirement community. While
there, Greg squirms his way through one of the film's more amusing crises, as he's trapped, half naked, in a lavatory full of
old women in swimsuits. Moral instruction is ladled on as Greg learns not to cheat in school, tell fibs or duck out on a friend
in need.

Most of the original actors return, with Zachary
Gordon twinkling a little too hard as Greg,
Devon Bostick as his troublesome brother and
Robert Capron as the ever-cheerful Rowley.
Rachel Harris ("The Hangover") and Steve Zahn
are intentionally corny as Mom and Dad. Missing
from the film is young Chloe Moretz, one of the
highlights of the original who has graduated to
bigger roles in better movies. The rest of the
cast members look and act as if they've been
held back and made to repeat a grade.

Throwing Greg off balance is cute transfer
student Holly Hills (Peyton List), who gives him
a yet more compelling reason to try to be cool.
As ever, Greg's guileless best friend, Rowley
Jefferson, remains clueless to coolness, but the
larger threat comes from Greg's big brother,
Rodrick. As Greg puts it, "Rodrick is the king of
laziness, except when it comes to torturing me."

Rodrick is something of an archetype of the foul teenager, cleaned up for the tween set. Dimwitted and mean, he lives only
for his band, Loded Diper, donning eyeliner to rock out on the drums. Having pinned his dreams on Plainview's citywide
talent competition, Rodrick can't be bothered to play nice with Greg. But their columnist mother (Rachael Harris) intently
pushes them together, lamely bribing them with "Mom Bucks." At first, Rodrick won't let up. But before long, the brothers
find themselves in a symbiotic tangle: After they're left alone for a weekend, they must work together to cover up the
evidence of a "wild" party.

Humiliation is the backbone of the whole Wimpy Kid universe, which makes it entirely accurate, because humiliation is the
central social power exercised by children. Enlightened souls eventually develop empathy, but neither Greg nor his brother
is quite there yet, which makes this new movie a surprisingly deep kids' pool.

Granted, it looks incredibly simple - and it is. The movie is about Greg and his brother sharing a lie about a house party,
and learning to deal with the consequences.

"The Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series gets a new director in David Bowers ("Flushed Away," "Astro Boy"), but it keeps the
same tone and the same funny in-betweens, animated in the style of book author Jeff Kinney's artwork. The scatological
stuff seems toned down in this installment, although there's certainly a fair share of embarrassment-related humor.
The focus here is less on Greg and Rowley
and more on Greg and his brother,
Rodrick. As with the previous film, "Diary of
a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules"  seems to
actually get what it feels like to be a
middle-schooler with older and/or younger
siblings. Overall, it's fast, funny, and
effective and will probably please fans.
Parents won't find much to raise a smile
here, but the point of attending such
movies is seeing your children crack up.
Most likely they will, especially if they favor
poop gags, which abound.

Diary 2 doesn't feel quite as fresh as the
first installment but I guess that's always
likely to be the problem in sequels.