Devon Bostick, Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Steve Zahn
Gabe Sachs, Jeff Judah, Jeff Kinney
20th Century Fox
All-New “My Summer Vacation” Bonus Shorts: “My Magick Summer” by Greg Heffley and “My Zoo-Wee Vacation” by Rowley Jefferson; Audio Commentary by Author Jeff Kinney and Director David Bowers; Theatrical Trailer
Nearly everything about Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules is the same as it was for the original film, a surprise 2010 hit based upon Jeff Kinney's acclaimed illustrated books. While there's more of a narrative thread this time around, it's all rather pointless and tiresome and barring some majorly unexpected word of mouth I'd be more than a bit surprised if there's a Diary of a Wimpy Kid 3 (at least in theaters).
Greg (Zachary Gordon) is in 7th grade now and is still struggling to deal with his family (including parents Steve Zahn and Rachael Harris), his pal Rowley (Robert Capron) and his brother, Rodrick (Devon Bostick), who continues to pick on him unmercifully. Chloe Moretz, who's now making quite the name for herself in flicks big and small, has officially grown beyond this flick and is nowhere to be found. Greg does harbor a crush on a new girl (Peyton List) and is still bossed around by Patty (Laine MacNeil).
While this time around, Diary of a Wimpy Kid feels less like an episode of The Wonder Years and more like an actual film, director David Bowers (Flushed Away, Astro Boy), in his first live-action feature, can't seem to fill the pic with anything resembling energy or life and the gags that were kind of cute and funny the first time around are infinitely more tired and stale here.
This film reminds me more of Rob Reiner's dreadful recent flick Flipped, a film that tried desperately to capture the wonder and innocence of an era but ended up feeling like a tired rehash with pretty images and nothing else. With Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2, we don't really even get the pretty images.
Nobody here is awful, with the sad possible exception of Steve Zahn, who is typically the highlight in even bad films (of which he's made more than his share). Gordon and Capron are returning players and do a fine job here, though Capron is way under-utilized given what a gift he was to the first film. As Greg's mom, Rachael Harris infuses the film with what little genuine warmth it actually has and is easily one of the highlights here.
Truth be told, I suspect that the majority of critics will prefer this sequel given its more traditional cinematic features and feeling less like a television series and more like an actual movie. I'm likely the exception, though I'd certainly not that the narrative cohesion is a nice plus and does make the film more palatable than its predecessor. Yet, there was a spontaneity and spirit in the first film that feels woefully lacking here. What felt like a free-spirited film last time around, feels formulaic here and it's simply not as much fun.
If your kid loves the books, then he/she may very well enjoy the film but likely on a lesser level. If your child absolutely adored the first film, then the second film is easily worth a matinee. Neither the best nor the worst this year has seen in family films, Diary of a WImpy Kid 2 is merely average in just about every sense of the word.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic