Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
Director: David Bowers
Starring: Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Rachael Harris, Robert Capron, Peyton List, Steve Zahn, Laine MacNeil, Karan Brar
When Diary of a Wimpy Kid hit theaters last March, who’d have thought we’d have a sequel just a year later? Well, good thing producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson were on top of their stuff because Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules is here and it packs just as much fun and charm as the original.
Summer’s over and it’s time for Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) to head back to school. Sure things are better with his upgraded seventh grader status and he isn’t getting picked on as much, but now Greg’s got other things to worry about. First off, there’s the new girl, Holly Hills (Peyton List). It takes just one look for her to steal Greg’s heart. The problem is, just about everything is working against him when it comes to impressing her from Chirag Gupta (Karan Brar) who doesn’t appreciate Greg getting the whole class to pretend Chirag’s invisible to a little candy bar incident that left an unpleasant stain on Greg’s pants.
But the thing that’s weighing on Greg the most isn’t his hope to impress Holly or even to be a “class favorite,” rather the trouble he’s having getting along with his family, specifically his older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick). His mother’s (Rachael Harris) as imposing as ever thanks to her new advice column in the local paper in which Greg typically winds up being the hot topic, his father (Steve Zahn) is still obsessed with his figurines and his little brother, Manny (Connor and Owen Fielding), can get away with anything, but it’s Rodrick’s mission to make Greg’s life miserable that’s giving him the hardest time. When their parents decide to head out of town to force the boys to settle their issues themselves, sure they wind up growing closer, but their newfound brotherly love comes with some pretty crazy consequences.
Is it possible for adult audiences to relate to the plight of a middle school kid? Not entirely, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun with Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2. Just like the original, the sequel boasts entertaining integration of the cartoon stick figures from Jeff Kinney’s book with the live action material. The black and white drawings pop up frequently throughout the film, but are seamlessly inserted so as not to create a distraction from the story, rather to enhance it. The same goes for the pacing of the film. The editing and music selection are both spot-on allowing for upbeat scene transitions that make you excited for what’s to come.
As for the direction, newcomer David Bowers has no trouble maintaining the tone Thor Freudenthal achieved in the first film. Not only does Bowers employ excellent staging in which every layer of the image holds some importance, but he simply knows how to work with kids. Mom and dad, Harris in particular, certainly get more screen time this time around, but it’s still Gordon’s movie and when it comes to getting an entirely believable performance out of such a young actor, Bowers hits it out of the park.
Then again, of course we can’t overlook the fact that Gordon is an all-around talented kid. In the first film he proved he could carry a movie and not only has he done it again in Rodrick Rules, but also proved he can carry a franchise. While his co-star, Capron, might not be in the driver’s seat, he does make for a great sidekick. Some of the slapstick gags are a little off and somewhat stagey, but that’s more of a blocking issue rather than a performance one.
The one who really stands out here is Bostick. Rodrick is present in the first film, but here he nearly takes center stage. He’s the brother you love to hate and Bostick certainly looks as though he’s having a blast in the role, but when it comes to the serious stuff, he’s got no problem switching gears to aim straight for the heart. In fact, at the close of the second act, he really nails a pivotal moment for the character, which is key not only in terms of the film’s heart, but also in establishing a connection with older audience members. While adults might not completely remember the time they didn’t get the desk they wanted in class, everyone can recall being told “no” when it comes to something really important. Even though Rodrick is one of the antagonists of the film, you really can’t help but to feel sorry for him here.
Wimpy Kid did it again. Yes, a number of the gags may be extremely childish and some of the plot points not entirely believable, but overall, it’s hard to keep from unleashing your inner child and enjoying this film. It’s quite easy to look past unconvincing story elements when the filmmaking techniques are of such a high quality and the performances are so honest. Looking for a movie you can take the kids to and still enjoy yourself? This is it. Then again, even if you’re sans youngsters you can still find quite a bit of enjoyment in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules.
By Perri Nemiroff