When I saw Diary of a Wimpy Kid my original intention was to see Chloe, an R rated thriller about some love affair; instead, I ended up seeing a PG rated comedy about an insecure middle-school child. I am not sure how this affected my viewing but I think Diary of a Wimpy Kid is too much of a kiddy film. I know I was walking into a kid’s movie (and it was my second option after Chloe) but this movie was way too immature.
In one short sentence, this film is about a kid who just got into middle school and wants to be popular but instead ends up learning a little bit about friendship. Oh sorry, did I spoil the ending? You see what my problem is with this movie? Every single step of the film has already been made (and better) by well-established children’s classics. The only difference is this film is well aware of itself as a children’s movie as if it needed to remind the parents who took the kids that they went to see a children’s movie. I know Hollywood doesn’t believe the audience has any brains but this just brought kids and parents to the level of the Transformers generation (basically mind-rotten middle school kids).
The film itself is not bad but simply formulaic. If you really need me to explore the plot further the film is about a kid named Gregg Heffley who has just entered middle school. Gregg’s older brother, Rodrick, has scared Gregg shitless about entering middle school. In response Gregg has developed a plan to become the number one popular kid; the problem is that most of the popular boys already grow… let’s call ‘em beards. To and insult to injury Gregg’s best friend Rowley is fat, has a pink bike, and still plays when he should be hangin’. Gregg tires really hard to be popular by fixing Rowley, avoiding Fregley (that’s the awkward read head with hair growing out of his secret freckle), running faster than Gupta (so the bullies catch him instead), humiliating Patty (that girl everyone hates), and getting Angie of his back. Angie is an angsty, cute eighth grader who hangs under the bleachers and acts as the wise advisor. My problem is that I don’t think there is such thing as an angsty, cute, and wise eighth-grade girl (never met one and probably never will). Much less one interested in a sixth grader like Gregg; girls like Angie generally hang out with high schoolers.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, Gregg is one of the most dislikable protagonists in the history of children’s films. He does terrible things to everyone around him, including dumping a bunch of kindergarteners into a ditch in the rain and blaming his “best-friend” for it, just for the sake of being popular. Yes, I know the film tries to show kids that friendships can last forever while popularity doesn’t necessarily do. But parents, would you really like your kid hanging out with a kid like Gregg? Hell, no you wouldn’t. Oh, there is also a subplot about some legendary CGI cheese.
I think this material could work in the right context; after all, there have been many great films about douche bags: In the Company of Men, Goodfellas, Match Point, Shaun of the Dead, Wall Street, The Hustler, The Color of Money, Hud, How To Loose Friends and Alienate People. Have you noticed a pattern yet? All the grown up versions of Gregg star in R rated movies. You see cooties and pubic hair references should not go together in the same film. Little kids might giggle at the reference had the film not shied away from it. But then the parents would raise a fuss about pubic hair references in kid’s films. The film could have worked as a serious PG-13 (it is middle school there is no need for R) film about the things we discover when we all go through middle school targeted at the people who already survived it. Instead of a PG rated film aimed at kids who are still not in middle school because middle school kids would much rather see Transformers or sneak into the newest American Pie style teenage flick (or has the internet killed the sport of sneaking into theaters because kids nowadays just type the “P” word in Google and find it there?) instead. The film even suggested some subplots that were obviously intended for an older audience most noticeably some hints on Rodrick’s sexuality. But instead of getting a scene about a high-schooler coming to terms about his sexual orientation we get a humiliating scene in which the mom discovers a hidden stash of magazines with girls and motorcycles (not porno) and asks Rodrick if he believes women should be “objectified” in such a manner. Holly shit mom, I’ll bet you a shiny new quarter that, if you are carrying such attitude, your husband is hiding a much kinkier set of magazines under his mattress. What was the writer thinking when he wrote that? That kids would learn not to look at motor biking magazines or that they should hide their porn better so their little brother doesn’t rat them out? The only way to justify that scene is if it was meant to show parents that the “porn” talk is for the trustworthy uncle to take care of.
Anyway bottom line is: parents do yourselves a favor and don’t suffer through this movie because your kid wants to go. Instead buy them a pair of NERF guns or Super-Soakers instead and let them play in the backyard. Not only is it a much more wholesome form of entertainment than this film but they also get some fresh air (something very much needed in today’s youth). If you want to see a film about growing up see Superbad instead; it also has an asshole in it and it is much more true to actually growing up than this film. If you want to take your kids to the movie theater and see a family film (because Superbad is R rated) go see the latest Pixar movie instead once again much more wholesome and smarter as well.
The only reason why Diary of a Wimpy Kid does not get a lower score is because as a film that follows a plot from point A to point B it works. You stay with it, your kids are likely to stay with it and it has a few good laughs and some clever animated clips like doodles. But all in all it is just one more forgettable film on the shelf.
One final note: I do not think any child would find “whippykawawa” or whatever Rowley wrote on the comic strips remotely funny.