One of my favorite books growing up was Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Clearly. It was a charming book that told the story of a child who would write letters to his favorite author. But somewhere in the middle of the book, it turns from letters to a journal of his life in the second grade. The book series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid focus on the experiences of Greg Heffley and told through the pages of a journal. Today, I get to review the second movie adaptation subtitled: Rodrick Rules.
Like the pages of a drawing book, we join the Rocket Rollers Roller Rink (say that five times fast) where they are welcoming back Westmore 7th graders. A car pulls up and some drawings get out? Oh I get it. By the way, the sign has now changed to, More Lame 7th Graders courtesy of two 8th or 9th graders I assume. As the drawings come out, they dissolve to a family of four.
They include parents, Susan and Frank (played by Rachel Harris and Steve Zahn), brother Rodrick (played by Devon Bostick) and seventh grader, Greg Heffley (played by Zachary Gordon). We are introduced to Greg’s friend: Rowley Jefferson (played by Robert Capron) and Fregley (played by Grayson Russell). They talk about summer vacation and munch a little pizza.
The pizza is not so fresh they come to find out so they go skate. They skate by a blonde (apparently new to the school), Holly Hills (played by Peyton R. List) as Chriag (played by Karan Brar) goes down her Google profile. Who knew that a search engine could be so helpful to find out info about a 12 year old? Yes, a little creepy I know. Greg daydreams a bit which soon leads an awkward introduction. Rodrick soon pushes young Greg into a situation.
That situation is Greg asking Holly to dance. Rodrick intervenes and that leads to the equivalent of a roller derby. Soon, Greg is called out by his mother to be saved? From there, Greg falls into a nearby cake and gets beat up by teenie boppers. Lovely. Cue the narration. He talks about Rodrick and his younger brother, Manny (played by Connor and Owen Fielding). At breakfast the next morning, mom institutes “Mombucks” which is intended to bring Rodrick and Greg closer together.
We join the Westmore High School in progress. As luck would have it, Holly is in the same class as Greg. Patty (played by Laine MacNeil) and Greg fight over a seat close to Holly. Apparently Rodrick has left behind a terrible legacy for Greg to live up to. Later, that afternoon Rodrick and Greg see a news story about a talent show with $1,000 as top prize. They suddenly get some bright ideas. Cue the musical interlude.
Ummm, if this show turns into the Partridge Family, I’m done. Okay, not exactly but we get some musical moments. By the way, we are also witness to a ruined Xbox 360 because of Manny’s cookie. That would mean death in my house, but they get after Greg instead. Oh wait, back to the annoying musical moments and a Youtube video. This would be the point in the movie where we get a very embarrassing moment during Sunday Church. Can Greg survive the seventh grade?
To be honest, I have never seen the first movie or read the book series (I have thought about doing the latter though). But, most people should be able to pick up the plot and not miss a beat. I will say that the children do a fantastic job in this movie especially with the likes of the two brothers, Devon Bostick and Zachary Gordon. One did actually feel a great bit of chemistry between the two. However, I can not say the same when it comes to the adults in the movie.
Rachel Harris and Steve Zahn have to be some of the most annoying parental characters I have ever come across. Rachel Harris is channeling Tina Fey but she forgot the funny part. Steve Zahn is not any better and plays a very whipped father figure. Normally, I would expect a father siding with his sons but we get almost none of that. There is also another huge issue and that has to do with the treatment of Greg Heffley’s character.
I understand that the title of the movie includes the words: Wimpy Kid. But does he have to be so wimpy? It gets to the point where we are just praying for Greg to catch a few lucky breaks. It is almost to the point where it becomes one uncomfortable moment after another. Then, the viewer starts missing the good jokes and it goes downhill from there. It is a shame because there are some really good performances nestled inside the movie.
The video is in 2.35:1 widescreen presentation at 1080p resolution. The color is fairly good here. Flesh tones are for the most part spot on. However, when Rodrick throws a party, the lighting really plays games with the video quality. Outside of that, most of the scenes have good production and are free of grain. Even “The Foot” looks good. (You will understand later) I would put it in the above average line of films on blu-ray.
For the audio portion, we get a 5.1 DTS-HD track for English (also included are 5.1 Dolby Digital Mixes for French). Dialog is very strong here as one would expect. The talkie track is clear and subtle differences in volume are done well. Musical numbers turn up the volume a bit but are not overblown. Surrounds are decent and this is one of the better comedy tracks. Subtitles are also included for English SDH and Spanish.
- Automatic Trailers: Fox Digital Copy, Rio, Marley & Me: The Puppy Years , and Fox Blu-Ray.
- Audio Commentary by Author Jeff Kinney and Director David Bowers: Before I talk about this, let me mention how wonderful it is to see the Author included in this commentary. If I ever get a book published and eventually made into a movie, I want dibs in the commentary. Anyway, back to the talk. Odd moment in the beginning, the director has never seen the movie? To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy the director’s side of the commentary at all. I was more interested by what Jeff Kinney had to say. According to the commentary, the author was on set 25 of the 45 shooting days and from the sounds of it, barely used. I would be willing to bet that the movie would have been a lot funnier if they had asked for more author’s input.
- ”My Summer Vacation” Shorts 8:58: Seven shorts are included here. The idea is we are looking at what happens to Greg and other cast characters between the first and second movies. These are actually pretty funny and honestly it would been kinda cool to see these placed in the beginning of the movie somehow.
- Deleted Scenes 9:22: Ten deleted scenes to go through. Director commentary is also included as an option. More “The Foot” as well. To be honest, some of these could have found a home in the movie because they show Greg as not ridiculously “wimpy”. The extended chase scene with Coach was pretty good. I could have done without the extended old lady chase though. They should have kept the goth girl.
- Alternate Ending: “Stealthinator” 1:26: Commentary is again included for this one if you desire it. I liked it, but again we can’t have anything that actually makes Greg looks cool, now can we?
- Gag Reel 4:23: A good dose of gag reel. Some infectious laughter and crappy hot/corn dog humor included.
- Theatrical Trailer 1:44: They focus on the Mombucks concept quite a bit here.
- DVD : Includes the film and that is it.
- Digital Copy: For those with portable media devices.
I am not sure if it is telling or not when the film’s best moments are the little squiggly animated drawings. It is true that the children actors provide a lot of good moments and ooze a lot of charm. But too often, the film is brought down by pacing and the adult characters in the film. Add that to the fact that Greg Heffley is so wimpy that you feel sorry for the actor and forget to appreciate the movie for its better moments.
The disc package is at least above average and fans of the book series as well as the movie will appreciate this film a little more. The video and audio are excellent and the extras are fairly plentiful. If you have seen and liked the first movie, then I can’t argue the fact that you should follow up with the sequel. So, I give it a slight recommendation in that regard. But for people looking a light hearted kid’s film based off a book, I would suggest Ramona and Beezus which you can find the review here.