Diary wimps out on humour
HY are the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies so much less fun, and funny, than the best of the books created by Jeff Kinney?
On the page, Kinney’s illustrations, those stick-figure humiliations and angsty margin doodles allegedly drawn by the exasperated protagonist Greg Heffley hold the key to why Wimpy Kid took off with so many millions of young and angsty seekers of humiliation comedy.
Perpetual, grinding setbacks and massive, why-me? preteen injustices are funnier in stickfigure form. Somehow all that snark, all those red-faced setbacks, turn to indistinct and slightly sour mush in a live-action setting.
Kids will go to the movies regardless, but it’s too bad these films aren’t livelier.
The first two films (modestly budgeted, and rightly so) did well, so here we have Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, a conflation of books three and four.
The narrative requires fretful, dissembling Greg to lie throughout and pay the price before learning a lesson or two about being a less fretful, dissembling version of himself.
Greg is played once again by the talented Zachary Gordon, now with newly changed voice. It’s summer vacation, and Greg wants only to spend his days video gaming. But Dad (Steve Zahn) has plans to school Greg in the wonders of Wilderness Explorers camping; his mum (Rachael Harris) starts up a Little Women book club; and Greg’s pal Rowley (Robert Capron, straight from playing young Curly in the recent Three Stooges movie) sneaks Greg into his country club so Greg can be around Holly (Peyton List), the nice girl who teaches tennis, and whose older sister is such a bully you keep waiting for the moment when patient Holly snaps.
As directed by David Bowers (who did the second film), the movie never finds the heightened state of comic anxiety that fuels the books. The actors, many of them excellent, pop their eyes and prolong their reactions and their timing goes amiss. Here and there, in the father/son scenes, you see a glimmer of an honest interaction.
A scene from
– a conflation of books three and four.