Mark Reviews Movies


1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Thor Freudenthal

Cast: Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Rachael Harris, Steve Zahn, Devon Bostick, Chloë Grace Moretz, Karan Brar, Grayson Russell

MPAA Rating: PG (for some rude humor and language)

Running Time: 1:31

Release Date: 3/19/10

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Review by Mark Dujsik | March 18, 2010

I must have missed the memo the day the world's dictionary editors changed the meaning of the word "wimp" from a cowardly, weak individual to an obnoxious, selfish one. Had I known "wimpy" no longer described a quality of timidity and is instead better attributed to a warped sense of self-importance and absolutely no consideration for the feelings of others, I might have been better prepared for the protagonist of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

I hate to speak ill of a child, even a fictional one, but this is one egotistical, little brat—an entirely unlikeable twerp. I don't know where he gets it from, as the movie has no consideration for his family beyond endowing them with the traits most likely for a comic look at childhood (bullying older brother, absent-minded father, ill-defined mother, and cute-as-a-button baby bro), but some necessary therapy later in life and perhaps his participation in a sociological study on the early development of sociopathic tendencies is foreseeable.

The kid is the creation of author Jeff Kinney, whose character started off as an illustrated web novel and turned into a book series. Maybe the material works better on the page, without the illusion of reality, and accompanied by simple drawings, which are recreated here in our ill-chosen hero's dreaming perception of life. Maybe it does, but after watching Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I'm none too inclined to find out.

Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon, who is as good as the role allows) is his name. He's just entering middle school and finding out that most of the kids in his grades have hit puberty over the summer, leaving him one of the smallest students around. Despite his older brother's (Devon Bostick) advice to stay under the radar, Greg's ultimate desire for this time in his life is to become popular, one of the Class Favorites in the school yearbook.

To achieve this goal, he will join the cool clubs, like wrestling (which is nothing like he watches on TV) and drama (uh, ok), avoid losers like his old friend freckly Fregley (Grayson Russell) and the wise-beyond-her-years editor of the school paper Angie (Chloë Grace Moretz), and try to teach his best friend Rowley (Robert Capron) the ways of popularity.

Greg's arrogance is one thing, but then there's his misanthropy. His favorite game is to throw a football at Rowley while his best friend rides a tricycle. It is not, needless to say, Rowley's favorite game. Greg never allows himself to be the target; he's always the one throwing the ball. Does he want to hurt his friend? Since that's the only point of the game and he always takes on the role of the thrower, the answer must be yes.

He does hurt Rowley, sending the poor kid flying in the air, breaking his hand in the process. Rowley starts to become popular when all the girls want to sign his cast. Greg can't stand the attention lavished on his friend and has no idea why no one appreciates what he did. He's irritated that Rowley doesn't thank him for breaking the hand and putting him in a position to be popular.

This is the kind of logic at which Greg excels. His focus on reputation overshadows all and everyone else.  He maintains a list of his and his fellow classmates' position on the chart of popularity, setting high standards for himself and watching as he tumbles to the bottom of the list while Rowley rises. Greg also urinates—accidentally, of course—on his older brother. The movie has an obsession with the disgusting, PG-friendly bodily functions and fluids, and a piece of moldy cheese sitting on the basketball court.

Apart from the occasionally crass material and unsympathetic protagonist, there are some elements and characters that could have worked as a better center. Rowley is a likeable enough kid, definitely closer to the traditional meaning of "wimpy" than Greg, and his ability to entirely miss the point of what it means to be popular is amusing. Also in that realm are Angie and the smallest student in the class Chirag (Karan Brar), who is constantly picked on, tells the story of the curse of the moldy cheese, and sums up his experience in middle school in a simple line with precise delivery.

They are here, and yet, Diary of a Wimpy Kid insists on attempting to sympathize with Greg.  Of course, he learns a Lesson about the error of his ways and learns something resembling humility, but by that point, after all he's done, it's too late. He's just insufferable.

Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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