[Review] – Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

19 Aug

Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days
Year: 2012
Director: David Bowers
Writers: Wallace Wolodarsky and Maya Forbes, based on the books by Jeff Kinney
Starring: Zachary Gordon, Steve Zahn, Robert Capron, Devon Bostick, Rachael Harris, Peyton List, Karan Brar
MPAA Rating: PG, some rude humor
Runtime: 94 min
IMDb Rating: 5.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Metacritic: 54

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid films have been coming out yearly now since 2010, based on the super successful series of books for kids by Jeff Kinney. The first film, simply titled Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I gave a B- to, and then I gave the same grade to the one that came out last year, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. The reason why I gave them B-‘s is that I just think these films are absolutely harmless children entertainment, films that go by super fast and that are a really great alternative for parents that want to take their kids to movies that are about real people, and not superheroes, wizards of vampires, and that don’t rely on special effects.

Well, now we have a third film, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, and I’ll go ahead and give this one a B-, too, and for the very same reason. You can’t really say negative stuff about this movie because it provides exactly what it advertises, it doesn’t pretend to be a great film and is more than happy to appeal just to those that like the source material and liked the first movie. Is it all super predictable and basically just like the other couple of films in the franchise? Well, yes. Does it rely all too much on a slapstick-y kind of children’s humor? Yes, that too. But small kids that like a more clean kind of entertainment will get a kick out of that, and that’s all that matters.

Plus, it’s not as though these films are like evil forces made by huge corporations in a tandem to rule the world and make billions off them. No, the films have all been made under small budgets (this one, at a reported $22 million, being the priciest one of the three), and they make a decent return at the box office, but nothing gargantuan (the first one stands as the best performer so far, with just a bit over $75 million made worldwide). So yeah, you just can’t be mad at these films for existing, and if there’s a fourth one next year I’ll probably give that one a B- to.

Zachary Gordon is back playing the titular wimpy kid, Greg Heffley, and this time around it’s all about what he wants to accomplish during his summer break. That, by the way, pretty much amounts to spending his entire break playing video games while thinking about his school crush, Holly, something that goes totally against the plan his outdoors-loving father has for him. Greg’s plan to achieve such summer air-conditioned freedom fails, and his father bans video games and television for the entire summer and starts thinking about all the things he can get Greg to do.

To avoid having to get a job of sorts or spend his time doing things he doesn’t want to, Greg pretends to have landed a job at the nearby country club, where he can get free food, hang out with his best friend Rowley, and get to see Heather, who takes tennis lessons there. As you might imagine if you’ve read the books or seen the other films, this will then turn out to be a totally episodic kind of film, with each scene showcasing some plan of Greg’s that somehow goes wrong and showcasing a moment of mild humiliation for him or any of the other characters on display here.

Like I said, this works for its target audience no matter what anyone else says. I’m not part of that target audience, but I do acknowledge that this will work for them, and there are a couple of scenes that are actually rather amusing. I totally agree that this film could use more spunk, could afford to take some chances in some of its scenes, but the fact remains that this super-pleasant exploration of this kid’s life works because of that clean and risk-free approach, and in an age in which films aimed at kids try to be super loud and go all-out on stuff, it’s kind of refreshing to see one that just lays back entirely and has some good clean fun.

Bottom line is, if you (or, more like, a kid you take to the movies) liked the past films, rest more than assured that they’ll like this one, too, in fact I would say that this one’s actually a tad better than the second film. The comedic strokes may be super broad and not really all that impressive, but the cast is just totally game to do their thing, and to be quite honest Steve Zahn, as Greg’s father, continues to make this role actually fun to watch, even though I would imagine most actors would think of this as a totally thankless paycheck role, he actually gets into this character that’s just super poorly developed and at least give some amusing line readings that make this worthwhile.

If you’re tired of 3D stuff, or of premises that rely entirely on CGI, or of protagonists with supernatural traits of one kind or the other, then go see Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. Sometimes you really need 90 minutes of two-dimensional creations, totally modest adventures, and just absolutely harmless (and not at all ambitious) filmmaking. Sometimes.

Grade: B-


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