The secret behind the success of Jeff Kinney’s best-selling Wimpy Kid series is that the author has perfectly captured the voice a middle-schooler. At times sarcastic, at others doubtful and always na´ve, the books appeal to adults as they help bring back memories of the most awkward moments of growing up, which can now be remembered fondly. For the kids, Kinney has conjured up in his hero an Everyboy named Greg Heffley, someone they can instantly relate to.
Unfortunately, only part of the books’ charm translates to the big screen in Thor Freudenthal’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the first in Kenney’s series. The film hits all of the high points of the book – the stinky cheese incident, Greg’s schemes to become popular, the disastrous school play — but there’s a sense of staleness to the whole affair. Greg (Zachary Gordon) is about to enter middle school and he has to deal with all of the usual problems, – bullies, trying to fit in, failing to impress girls, etc. – as well as contending with an abusive older brother (Devin Bostik), a slightly goofy dad (Steve Zahn) and a sweet mother (Rachel Harris) who has the patience of Job.
Greg’s trials seem familiar because they are. Despite the energetic turns from the cast and Freudenthal’s quick pacing, the predictability of this affair ultimately brings it down. That being said, I would be remiss if I said nothing about the fine effort from Robert Capron as Greg’s best friend, Rowley. The young actor radiates joy whenever he’s on screen, stumbling about as clueless as ever, yet showing the confidence to simply be himself. In the end, Greg learns the value of this from his friend; too bad the film couldn’t follow his lead and find a personality of its own.
Contact Chuck Koplinski at email@example.com.