“Okay, first of all, let me get something straight. This is a journal, not a diary. Yeah, I know what it says on the cover. But, when my mom went out to buy this thing, I specifically told her not to buy one that said ‘diary’ on it. This just proves that Mom doesn’t understand anything about kids my age.”
I guess I missed out on the phenomenon. Apparently in 2007 a guy named Jeff Kinney created a sort of crude comic book. The figures are little better than stick men, and the wit is something from the sixth grade. I guess that pretty much matches the book’s purpose, which is to cover the life of a smart-aleck from middle school. Of course, when I was young they didn’t call it that. They called it junior high. Unless you went to Catholic school where it didn’t even exist. Anyway, the comic built what you’d call a cult following. It was inevitable from there that the short little features would find themselves the subject of a motion picture.
“The only reason I agreed to write this thing is because when I’m rich and famous I’ll have better things to do than answer people’s stupid questions all day long. Here’s my journal, now shoo.”
Greg Heffley (Gordon) is about to start his first day of middle school. He’s a bit nervous and more than a little frightened, mostly because his elder brother Rodrick (Bostick) has painted a rather dire picture of his chances of surviving the day, let alone the first year. Together with his best friend Rowley (Capron), Greg enters the new era of his life with only one goal in mind. He intends to climb the popularity ladder all the way to the top.
Throughout the school year, Greg keeps coming up with new schemes to drive up his popularity. He tries to make the “right” connections and join the “best” activities. This leads to such misunderstandings as learning there aren’t any pile drivers and colorful costumes in scholastic wrestling. With every new effort the plan tends to backfire. It gets worse when his selfishness and mistreatment of loyal friend Rowley ends up making Rowley more popular and Greg even less.
“Mom got me this thing so I could write down my feelings about starting middle school. I always figured they’d make a movie about my life. I didn’t think they’d start the story here.”
It’s a little hard to know what to make of this film. The main character is pretty unlikable, so that I never quite knew who to root for here. In many ways I get the impression that I came in somewhere other than the beginning. There’s a rather definitive style to the piece that I can only describe as the Anti-Peanuts. I’m aware that most of this comes from the uniquely styled book that provided the source material. The filmmakers paid a ton of homage to that stuff. The fans of the book have to be pleased with how much of that narrative survives into the film. Of course, I’m only guessing here, because I never saw any of the books before. But were they perhaps a bit too faithful?
If you’ve heard it once you’ve heard it a million times. Books and films are two very different media. Somehow it doesn’t always sink in. I know this from personal experience. I’m trying to teach a friend who is a budding fiction writer that his filmatic prose isn’t quite novel material. Write the screenplay if that’s what you see. Here, I suspect we find the opposite problem. Everyone is so concerned with being faithful to what the core fans expect that they forgot they were making a movie. The episodic pace doesn’t quite want to hold together. It reminds me of trying to chew gum after eating a handful of roasted peanuts. There’s something in the peanut oil, E. Coli I think they call it, that takes away your gum’s ability to stick together. When these four screenwriters put this movie together, someone should have left the peanuts at home.
Diary Of A Wimpy Kid is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec at an average of almost 40 mbps. This is certainly a very colorful image presentation. From the wardrobe to the set design, the film is infused with an almost cartoonish array of bright colors. I suspect there should be “fresh paint” signs everywhere. That’s a bit strange when you consider the rather simple monochromatic nature of the source material. The high bit rate also means that the picture is about as sharp as they come. I’m just not sure that’s always a good thing. Detail levels are sometimes painfully high. Black levels are excellent. It’s a high-definition presentation all the way around.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 does what a comedy film needs it to do. It serves the dialog, and this film abounds in dialog. There’s a ton of corny and slapstick comedy moments, and the surrounds serve up the comic sound effects just fine.
There is an Audio Commentary by director Thor Freudenthal and one of the writers. There’s a ton of time spent on the issues of adapting such a stylistic book.
Deleted Diary Pages: A few short pieces that really don’t feel like they actually were part of the film. Most of them are supporting characters offering some in-character advice.
DVD & Digital Copy
“Because seriously, who wants to see a movie about a kid who’s stuck in middle school with a bunch of morons?” Good question. I won’t deny that the film ended up doing quite well at the box. A cool $63 million on a $15 million investment isn’t bad. It isn’t bad at all. There’s already a sequel called Rodrick Lives coming as soon as next spring. “Don’t you have to be funny to make that work?”