Mixed Media: Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules-- The Movie
What do you get when you cross an insightful, yet clueless soliloquy on the middle school life as lived by a cartoon stick figure with a full-length feaure live-action film? Well, you get a lot of sight-gag-cum-pratfall humor and some genuine belly laughs which finally underscore one of the themes of Jeff Kinney's beloved and best-selling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series--you win some and you lose some.
Greg Heffley and his sidekick the ever-eager, ever-rotund Rowley are ready for some respect as they return to middle school as sophisticated seventh graders. Greg immediately falls into a mega-crush on new girl Holly Hills. She's gorgeous, a fashion model with long platium hair, and she's a good six inches taller than he is, so Greg decides to put the moves on her before she figures out he's at the bottom of the middle-school pecking order.
Meanwhile back at home Greg's mom instigates a little behavior modification on her warring sons, promising Greg and his downright devilish older brother Rodrick "Mom bucks" for spending quality time together. Rodrick quickly figures out how to game this system at Greg's expense, and when he filches Greg's famous diary and threatens to make public his secret crush, Greg's future is seriously compromised. Then, when Mom and Dad head off for a festive weekend, leaving the warring older brothers grounded at home, Rodrick stages a teen party which Greg and Rowley manage to crash, and keeping this episode secret makes temporary but uneasy allies of the two brothers.
But eventually even Greg's ineffectual Dad discovers the conspiracy of silence and the two malefactors are seriously busted, with Rodrick grounded from appearing with his band Loded Diper at the town talent show. Then Greg, in an act of unforeseen brotherly love, negotiates a compromise that lets Rodrick finally become a star--or so he thinks, until the script writers unexpectedly give Greg--and the viewer--the last, best laugh in the final moments of the film.
Script writers Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah keep the gags coming as they subject poor Greg to various comic humiliations--falling into a birthday cake at the roller rink as he tries to impress the lovely Holly, taking refuge clad only in his tightie whities in the ladies' restroom at Granddad's retirement home, and getting second best even in his encounters with now familiar classmates Chirag, Patty, and Fregley. Young actors Zach Gordon and Devon Bostick as Greg and Rodrick steal the show from their elders, especially the unfortunate Steve Zahn as Dad Frank Heffley, whose few lines are marred by painfull overacting. Supporting young players Robert Capron as Rowley and Grayson Russell as Fregley, one-dimensional as their roles must be, are at least dead ringers for their cartoon counterparts and have their own comic moments.
If the film suffers from the absence of the book's ironic narrator, whom some critics have likened to a younger Holden Caulfield and whose evaluations of the middle school scene are both hilarious and spot on, the writers keep the plot rolling and the laughs coming fast enough to make this movie well worth the short time spent in the cineplex.
Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules is rated PG and runs 96 minutes.