Greg Heffley, the hero in Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules, does seem to suffer a bit more than the average seventh-grader and, truth be told, he brings a lot of it on himself. At the local skating rink, he hesitates in talking to his newest crush Holly (Peyton List) and soon is lost, embarrassed beyond belief when he’s caught in a maelstrom of thuggish skaters. He’s ridiculed at church when it appears as though he’s soiled his pants and don’t even ask about what happens with his latest history report! But these humiliations pale in comparison to what his brother Roderick (Devon Bostick) puts him through, as he’s the object of all of his abuse and frustration. And while their mother (Rachel Harris) tries to get them to bond by instituting a system of positive reinforcement, does she really think these brothers can put all of their animosity to rest?
While Roderick and its predecessor are harmless enough, they’re hardly models of imagination. The predicaments Greg has to deal with are old hat, as are their resolutions. However, I think the real reason I’ve been reticent to embrace these films is that Greg just isn’t a very nice guy. Sure, I know he’s going through an awkward stage, but he’s cripplingly self-centered, he’s cruel to his buddy Rowley (Robert Carpon) and he ridicules his other friend, Chirag (Karan Brar), mercilessly. Kinda hard to root for the kid when he’s such a tool.
I know it seems that I’m being a bit too hard on a film as slight as this, but the bar’s been raised by How to Train Your Dragon, Despicable Me, Tangled and any of the Pixar features. In the long run, most of the youngsters who see this will be entertained and won’t notice they’ve been sold a bill of goods. But they shouldn’t be made to settle for less when a more meaningful and intelligent product is possible. In the end, if they’re given a steady diet of this sort, they’ll begin to reflect the mediocrity they’ve been exposed to.
Contact Chuck Koplinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.