Mark Reviews Movies


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: David Bowers

Cast: Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Rachael Harris, Robert Capron, Steve Zahn, Peyton List

MPAA Rating: PG (for some mild rude humor and mischief)

Running Time: 1:36

Release Date: 3/25/11

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Review by Mark Dujsik | March 24, 2011

The lesson young Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) learned at the end of the first movie must have stuck, because in the sequel Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules young Greg is no longer the egotistical, little brat that wrecked whatever fondness we may have had for him considering his outsider status. It only made sense he could never achieve the popularity he so desperately desired: He was a jerk to his friends, causing them physical and psychological harm, and he would never shut up about how important it is to be popular, why he should be popular, and what injustice there is in the world because he's not popular.

That Greg Heffley, thankfully, is gone, only popping his head into affairs once early on in the movie, as he daydreams about becoming an item with the new girl in school. The fantasy isn't about holding hands or sneaking kisses or any of that lovey-dovey, mushy stuff; instead, he imagines how his classmates will look at the two of them (especially him) in awe of their status as the most popular couple in middle school, affording them attention and VIP status at the roller rink. It's a quick reminder of the old Greg, and the moment is almost appreciated for its ability to immediately allow us to recall how much he has changed—from unbearable creature to actual wimpy wallflower.

Seventh grade for Greg and his best friend Rowley (Robert Capron) is a much better situation. No longer the smallest kids in the building, they walk through the halls with a new sense of importance, but despite their new standing, things are still difficult.

Greg has a crush on Holly Hills (Peyton List), the aforementioned new girl in school who only knows he exists from the humiliating experiences she witnesses, whether it's having his father (Steve Zahn) carry him off the skating floor after his mother (Rachael Harris) stops the music so she can console her boy that he's about to be rescued or getting into a fight with his class' overachiever Patty (Laine MacNeil) when he tries to grab the desk next to Holly. His attempts to woo Holly fail at every turn.

At home, Greg's mom is pushing that he and his older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick) start to get along for once, since they can barely stand the sight of each other. The plot boils down to the aftereffects of one particular weekend, while the two are home alone, when Rodrick throws a party, and the Greg and Rodrick must work together, first to clean the house before their parents get home and then to hide the fact that there was a party.

There are other odds-and-ends subplots, like Greg and Rowley's attempt to become Internet sensations with a funny video and Greg's attempt to make his classmates collectively ignore the school's smallest student Chirag (Karan Brar), who has the audacity to point out that Greg's chances with Holly are slim (It ends in cross-dressing; don't ask how but do know it ends that way), and they are primarily what weigh down this better installment in what appears to be an impending franchise (The book series by author Jeff Kinney has five entries to date). The irony, of course, is that the first time around we'd rather Greg's friends take over for his story, while now, with Greg being far more tolerable, those same friends get in the way.

That's not to say that Rowley, the dim kid whose whole body freezes at the idea of telling a lie and yet becomes the life of Rodrick's party, still isn't the more appropriate character to go along with the title, but it is to say that there is a genuine heart behind the movie this time around, especially in the growing, if tenuous, affection and respect between Greg and Rodrick. It doesn't keep the movie out of the PG-friendly gutter (Rodrick's party is tame even by Bible camp standards), as a scared bird decorates Greg and Rowley with its white excrement during a magic show, Greg is forced to run around a retirement home in his underwear (for reasons that are as complicated to explain as detailing how he ends up being called a pervert by a group of senior ladies), and fake vomit makes for a night of brotherly bonding.

The fact remains that Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules is as uninspired a comedy as its predecessor. Even its climax takes place at the school talent show, that clichéd standby where the characters can show what they're really made of, but at least in this one, the characters are made of something tolerable. It's a start.

Copyright © 2011 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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