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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to middle school, the perennial wimpy kid returns, but this time big brother is watching (and causing) most of the humiliation.

Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) now a 7th grader, is back and so is big brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick) in an expanded role as tormentor and saboteur.  Greg’s friends and classmates, including Rowley (Robert Capron) Fregley (Grayson Russell) and Chirag (Karan Brar) supply the naïveté, grossness and precocious observations that he captures in his diary.  Mean girl Patty (Laine MacNeill) with shiny sharp braces makes sure to add to the adolescent angst.

The put-upon Greg can’t seem to catch a break – Rodrick’s troublesome reputation precedes him and his teacher begins the school year with the standard “keeping an eye on you” warning.  At least this year Greg has a cafeteria table (instead of a place on the floor) and the legendary playground cheese is just a greasy, square outline reminding us of humiliations past.  There are more to come.

Greg has a crush on new girl Holly (Peyton List) a situation that always provides an instant Achilles Heel for Rodrick to target.  Line drawings from the wildly popular children’s book series by Jeff Kinney invade the screen to punctuate Greg’s observations, explanations and fears.  There is the usual flood of underwear, gross food, brown stains, parental interference and practical jokes.

Mom Susan (Rachael Harris) writes an advice column for the local paper, using her own sons as examples.  Dad Frank (Steve Zahn) is bewildered and tongue-bitten most of the time, but springs to life when his Civil War figurines are.  Little brother Warren (Connor and Owen Fielding) knows he is “only thwee” and the resulting power that gives him.

Greg gets into embarrassing situations both accidentally and with the unwanted help of a well-meaning mother and a devious, sarcastic brother who dreams of rock band superstardom.  The Loded Diper drummer does have rules (one of them is deny, deny, deny) but he also rules over Greg in the daily scheme of life at the Heffley house.

The pair forges an uneasy truce over a forbidden house party thrown by Rodrick, and for a while everything is harmonious, but events unravel and disintegrate to venom and mayhem once more.  Life for Greg Heffley progresses in small triumphs and disappointments until the talent show reveals some unexpected outcomes.

Zachary Gordon charms as the cute nebbish that seems to live perpetually behind the Eight-Ball.  Devon Bostick portrays the devilish older sibling with a malicious charisma that is attractive and repellant at the same time.  The boys flesh out their stick figure counterparts.  Rodrick’s rock persona wears eyeliner and lipstick.  Greg gets caught in “tightie-whities” more than he should (at any age).  Gordon and Bostick deliver their zany, sincere, and scathing emotions like a couple of old pros.

Robert Capron’s Rowley is so good-natured, he doesn’t realize his own ineptitude and would probably forgive anyone who pointed it out to him – a real accomplishment for so young an actor.

Rachael Harris and Steve Zahn create a set of parents who embody the square, nerdy, well-meaning role models that contrast their sons’ antics so well.  Peyton List is, unsurprisingly, tall and blond, so that even middle schoolers can start to appreciate that looks dictate one’s place in life.  “She’s out of your league,” Chirag tells Greg, which is a stereotype this reviewer wishes someone would step up and shatter someday.  Still, the film is entertaining enough to ignore this annoying hierarchical assumption.

Director David Bowers (Astro Boy) has an extensive background in animation that makes him right at home with translating drawings off of a page into characters on a screen.  The adapted script, by Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah zeroes in on the antagonistic blood-bonds of brothers trapped by circumstance of DNA and family dynamics.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules goes from yucky to endearing in 60 seconds flat and then back again.  Even a self-proclaimed wimpy kid’s gotta appreciate that.

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