‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ is a live-action adaptation of Jeff Kinney’s illustrated book about wise-cracking middle schooler Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon). I haven’t read the books, but can only imagine that they outshine the movie by several thousand light bulbs. Maybe I’m just not into the gross-out humor of boogers, poop and pee, of which there is plenty in this movie.
Greg is at that awkward age (11) where he’s just entering middle school, a landmine of morons, wedgies, swirlies, bullies, lunchtime faux pas, and a festering piece of cheese with plutonium-like cooties. Basically, Greg’s goal is to make it out of middle school alive.
His best friend is Rowley Jefferson (Robert Capron), a chubby kid who’s a delightfully dorky misfit on the outside, but ends up being the cool hero in the end. Rowley’s theory is to just be himself, and everyone will like him. Greg has a different philosophy, which involves a series of schemes to escalate his standing on the social ladder. Of course, all of these schemes go awry and it turns out that Rowley was right all along.
Greg chronicles all of his middle school adventures in his journal (it says “diary” on the outside, but “it’s a journal, Mom, not a diary!”). Diaries are for sissies. Greg writes in the journal because “one day when I’m famous, I’ll have better things to do than answer peoples’ stupid questions all day.” Can’t argue with that.
I’ve been trying to figure out who this movie’s core audience is. My kids are 12 and 15, and neither of them seemed the least bit interested in seeing it. The moms I’ve talked to weren’t into it because they get enough potty humor at home all day. I’m guessing that tweens aged 8 to 11 who’ve read the books (there’s a bunch of them) might want to see it. There’s plenty of gross-out humor, but maybe they go for that stuff.
The movie’s rife with jokes about boogers, farts, poop and pee, and one scene shows a character accidentally peeing on another character. A few shots include kids on toilets, and the middle school bathrooms have no doors on the stalls (Greg promptly decides not to go to the bathroom until high school).
There’s other stuff that’s probably not good for tween viewing either: Greg’s older brother (Devon Bostick) bullies him around, wears eyeliner, and plays in a garage band. He’s also caught with a biker-babe magazine (the cover shows a woman in a bikini).
And then there’s that disgusting piece of cheese lying on the cement in front of the school percolating with mold and ick year after year. It’s pretty awful, but ends up playing a pivotal role in the movie, so just go with it.
This movie kind of reminds me of ‘How to Eat Fried Worms,’ in that the kids are about the same age and have to navigate similar perils. I also kept harking back to that 1969-70 TV series about a James Thurber-like writer ‘My World and Welcome To It,’ because cartoons blended into the storylines there, just as they do with this movie. By that, I mean that Greg’s drawings actually come to life every now and then, which is kind of a cool effect.
‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ isn’t a bad movie. Based on what I know from my kids’ middle school experiences, I don’t know that it’s particularly true-to-life (but, really, how much do parents really know about their kids’ school adventures?). But it definitely has some good moments, and Zachary Gordon and Robert Capron shine as two misfits trying to find a way through the middle school maze.
Images: 20th Century Fox Film Corp.