Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days
Directed By: David Bowers
Starring: Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Devon Bostick, Steve Zahn, Rachael Harris, Peyton List, Grayson Russell, Karan Brar
There’s a reason I’ve continued to cover the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” film franchise since the first installment hit back in 2010; they’re particularly well made family films and, sure enough, the third film, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days,” falls right in line.
Summer has arrived! Trouble is, Greg (Zachary Gordon) and his father, Frank (Steve Zahn), have two very different ideas of what summer vacation should entail. While Greg looks forward to spending endless hours playing video games, Frank insists summertime should be spent outdoors playing catch in the yard, at the community pool or camping with the Wilderness Explorers group.
When Greg’s lack of non-videogame ambition becomes too much, Frank suggests that Greg start coming to the office with him as a summer intern. In order to avoid a summer in a cubicle, Greg blurts out the first thing he can think of; he can’t intern with his father because he got a job at Rowley’s (Robert Capron) country club. Unless ordering smoothies at Rowley’s parents’ expense and trying to make a move on his crush, Holly Hills (Peyton List), constitutes work, Greg’s new gig is one big fat lie. Lucky for Greg, Rodrick’s (Devon Bostick) crush, Holly’s sister, Heather (Melissa Roxburgh), also belongs to the same country club so as long as Greg keeps sneaking Rodrick in, his secret is safe.
Yes, the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” movies are undoubtedly for younger moviegoers, but even if you don’t have a little one to take to the theater, there’s really nothing wrong with checking out “Dog Days.” Like its predecessors, the film is oozing with silly antics, charming characters and, the clincher, relatable situations and emotions.
Greg’s not a bad kid, but he’s no little angle and the mixture of the two makes him feel far more authentic than most family film protagonists. Plus, Gordon is just an absolute natural in the role. For those who’ve kept up with the films as they’ve been churned out, it’s a blast seeing a grown up Gordon in action. He’s taller, his voice is deeper and his concerns have matured. Capron, on the other hand, looks like he hasn’t aged a day, but for a role like Rowley, keeping his childish naivety intact only enhances the character.
List gets the chance to ramp things up, taking Holly from merely the object of Greg’s affection to a semi realized character. For older audiences her bubbly, no-worries attitude may be a little too idealistic, but “Dog Days” is much more about Greg and the fact that she’s there to boost his spirits, also boosts the audience’s. Also assuming much more of the spotlight is Zahn as Frank. The franchise’s third installment is much more about Frank and Greg’s relationship than anything and while they look nothing alike, Zahn and Gordon share enough chemistry to really sell the relationship.
Continuing to set “Wimpy Kid” apart from most kid-friendly fare is the fact that it’s simply a very well made movie. Just like with “Rodrick Rules,” director David Bowers uses unassuming camera techniques that let vivid colors and imagery take center stage, and uses Ed Shearmur’s score to further enhance the tone and emotions. Generally, all of the camerawork is spot on, never removing a viewer from the material, except for a single scene, the moment when Greg and Rowley ride the Cranium Shaker. While all of the footage in “Dog Days” is noticeably crisp, the portion that takes place on the scary ride has a more muted color palate and a video-like look.
Whether it’s a problem with a visual or even a plot point that might not entirely make sense, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” trumps all because it’s just so much fun. There are lessons to be learned based on Greg’s actions, but they’re never expressed to an excessive degree, keeping “Dog Days” a source of entertainment more so than a film desperately trying to send a message. Sure, it’s great if a family film can get deep enough to resonate in that respect, but what’s wrong with one that resonates simply because it’s a blast to watch?