Mark Reviews Movies

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: David Bowers

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

MPAA Rating: PG (for some rude humor)

Running Time: 1:34

Release Date: 8/3/12

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Review by Mark Dujsik | August 2, 2012

The episodic misadventures of Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), who is now closer to being a wimpy teenager, continue in Diary of Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. It's more of the sameŚlittle for the better and about equal for the worse.

Watching Greg grow up hasn't necessarily been much fun. In his first movie, he was more of an obnoxious brat than the titular descriptor, and while the second movie found an emotional linchpin in the form of his relationship with his older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick), it still relied on uninspired and PG-friendly bits of juvenile humor. It would be unfair to expect any more or less from this installment. At least the jokes about bodily functions are out of the way at the beginning (Greg is horrified to learn that young children urinate in the public pool; a string of looks of satisfaction on their faces is admittedly amusing), unless one counts the family eating a pot roast that had been recently covered in dog saliva.

Summer's here, and the time is right for Greg to spend his days sitting in the living room playing video games. His last day of school was not promising, anyway. He nearly convinced his crush Holly (Peyton List) to write her phone number in his yearbook, but she was pulled away by an eager friend when the last bell of the school year rang (The result is an unstoppable flood of kids down the hallway, which has some visceral truth to it). She's far more ambitious than Greg, listing all the volunteer activities she plans to do over the summer break, including teaching kids tennis at the local country club.

Luckily, Greg's best friend Rowley (Robert Capron), the timid kid who still fits the term "wimpy" better than Greg ever has, and his family have a membership at the club. It's the perfect cover at home, too, since Greg's dad (Steve Zahn) wants his sons to learn some responsibility. Greg lies that he found a job at the country club, so now he has all day to hang out with Holly without hearing his parents (Rachael Harris plays his mother) complain about his lack of motivation.

Eventually, Rodrick comes into play; he has a crush on Holly's older sister Heather (Melissa Roxburgh), a spoiled teen who insults her little sister and expects everyone to know the world revolves around her. No one ever accused Greg of being wise, so he doesn't say anything to his brother about the kind of person she is. Instead, he starts sneaking Rodrick into the country club so that his brother might have a chance to talk to her. Most of the time, Rodrick is hiding out in the trash in the alley or, in one scene, being assaulted by a random man who doesn't realize or care that Rodrick was only faking drowning to catch Heather's attention and CPR experience as a lifeguard.

Other episodes include Greg and Rowley's visit to an amusement park where they want to experience a ride that is rumored to have decapitated at least one rider. There's a funny bit in which Rowley confesses his darkest sin to his friend (If one knows Rowley, one knows the transgression really isn't worth a second thought) only to be horrified by the thing Greg chooses to tell him. It also gives us a chance to spend time with Rowley's parents (Bronwen Smith and Alf Humphreys), who are even more milquetoast than we could anticipate. Their favorite game is called "I Love You Because," in which they spin a wheel and tell what they love about the person to whom the arrow points. Greg has no way to win this game.

Even though these characters haven't grown on us all too memorably over the course of the previous two movies, we're at least comfortable with them. Greg has shifted dramatically from the first movie. Rowley remains the sort of ever-loyal and trusted friend that must be admired. Becoming reacquainted with the ancillary characters, who have a much smaller role this time around, is surprisingly pleasant, like when the class know-it-all Patty (Laine MacNeil) decides to use the boys' lack of tennis experience as an excuse to repeatedly hit them with the ball.

The movie is based on two books in Jeff Kinney's series, and it does feel cobbled together as such. Eventually, the story begins to focus on Greg's relationship with his dad, who grew up not knowing his own father that well. The gap between them is wide: Dad likes Civil War reenactments and fishing; Greg doesn't understand the concept of the element of surprise in battle and is shocked to discover what's used for bait. The kid is used to be yelling at by his parents, but he learns soon enough how much worse it is for his dad to be disappointed in him.

Greg will probably never be wise in his adolescent years, but Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days does ultimately see him becoming more mature. As I said in my review of the last movie, it's a start; now the series needs to aim for more than that.

Copyright ę 2012 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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