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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 25, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 12
Wimpy Kid returns for a second witless adventure
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Wimpy Kid returns for a second witless adventure

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
Opening March 25


I had low expectations for Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. I despised last year's surprisingly popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and even though it was based on an acclaimed series of animated books by Jeff Kinney (the first one spent three years on the New York Times best-seller list), the movie did nothing but give me a headache. Needless to say, I wasn't eager to head to the theater and view a sequel.

To say this second chapter in the saga of Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), now in the seventh grade, exceeded my meager and extremely low expectations would be misleading. While I did not have the same painful reaction to Rodrick Rules as I did its predecessor, that had more to do with my knowing what I was in for more than anything else. This isn't a good movie, not by a long shot, and while my head wasn't throbbing afterwards, that shouldn't be construed as a reflection of the sequel's quality.

For those who need to know, this time the story revolves around Greg being forced by his parents, Susan (Rachael Harris) and Frank (Steve Zahn), to spend more time with his high school-aged brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick) in hopes the two will stop fighting and begin to bond. Although best friend Rowley Jefferson (Robert Capron) is still around (he has designs on winning the town's talent show with a magic act) and there is a new potential love interest for Greg in the form of Holly Hills (Peyton List), both end up taking a backseat to all the brotherly in-fighting returning screenwriters Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah plant center stage.

New director David Bowers (Astro Boy, Flushed Away) tries to tone down the Disney Channel sitcom histrionics that dominated the first film, but he is only partially successful. Moments of quiet and of introspection are still few and far between, and while I like the fact he gives the parents more of an even and natural presence (especially in regards to Harris), there is still a crazy hyper-stylized lunacy to everything that will potentially drive anyone over the age of 12 insane.

But my big problem continues to be Greg himself. I just don't get what's redeeming or likable about the kid. The way he treats Rowley is at times unforgivable, and he is so selfish that there were moments I wanted to wring his seventh-grade neck. The only time he does something selfless - save one moment during the climax - is when it serves his own interests. The kid is a 12-year-old narcissist who I'm not sure I'd want similar youngsters emulating.

Otherwise, there's not a ton more to say. Other than the semi-animated interstitials, the majority of the film is flat and visually ugly, and the filming of the climactic talent show especially unappealing. There's little ingenuity, and from a technical standpoint alone this might as well have been made for television for all the imagination that's sadly on display.

But what do I know? I predicted Diary of Wimpy Kid wouldn't even be a success with its target audience, and then it went on and made almost $65 million at the domestic box office. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules is more of the wretchedly unwatchable same, and even though I personally didn't care for it, I imagine those who flocked to the first one will do so again this time around.

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