US Release Date: 03-19-2010
Directed by: Thor Freudenthal
- Zachary Gordon, as
- Greg Heffley
- Robert Capron, as
- Rowley Jefferson
- Rachael Harris, as
- Susan Heffley
- Steve Zahn, as
- Frank Heffley
- Connor Fielding, as
- Manny Heffley
- Owen Fielding, as
- Manny Heffley
- Devon Bostick, as
- Rodrick Heffley
- Chloe Grace Moretz, as
- Angie Steadman
- Karan Brar, as
- Chirag Gupta
- Grayson Russell, as
- Laine MacNeil as
- Patty Ferrell
Greg and Rowley check out Fregley's mole.
Middle school, that time in your life between childhood and growing into a young adult. In elementary school we were watched over and given directions for every little thing. Middle school introduces a level of responsibility not yet experienced. You must find your way between classes and deal with a social structure you have no control over.
Greg is the middle child. He has a baby brother and an older brother in high school, Rodrick, who is in a band called Loded Diper. His advice to Greg on his first day of middle school is, "You never sign up for anything at school. You fly below the radar! That way you never raise anybody's expectations." Greg's best friend Rowley, has this nugget of wisdom, "My mom said to just be myself, and everyone would like me." To which Greg responds, "That would be good advice if you were somebody else."
Greg is very insecure. Things have changed and he is trying to adjust, so as to fit in. One of the best examples of his struggle is when Greg and Rowley are on a crowded school yard and Rowley asks Greg, "Do you wanna come over after school and play?' After everyone laughs, Greg explains to Rowley that boys their age say "hang out," not "play."
Greg sets out to become a popular student so as to appear many times in the yearbook. Greg signs up for wrestling and safety patrol. He auditions for the school play. After Greg tells a lie that gets Rowley into trouble, he and Rowley stop being friends. Just when Greg thinks things cannot get any worse, Rowley starts to become more popular than Greg, and even gets a new best friend. This leaves Greg the least liked kid in school, except for Fregley, the grossest kid they know.
Although only in a few scenes, Fregley is someone who could teach Greg an important lesson. Fregley likes to show off his hairy mole and picks his nose in public. He does not seem to care if he is popular or not. He is a happy go lucky kid, even though you would not want to eat anything he has been around.
Based on the delightful books by Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid reminds us how difficult growing up can be, as well as reiterates the importance of friendship. This is a very family friendly film. Greg gets Rodrick in trouble over his "dirty" magazine he keeps under his bed. It is a motorcycle mag with a bikini clad girl on the cover. It makes the point without being at all crude.
Middle school is that huge leap between childhood and young adult. It is the biggest time for change in your life. The problem is that everyone does not change at the same rate, As Greg points out, "You have kids like me who haven't hit their growth spurt yet, next to gorillas that have to shave twice a day." Although Diary of a Wimpy Kid is more of a series of anecdotes than actual plot, it is a film everyone can relate to and enjoy.
Greg playing a tree in a school production of The Wizard of Oz.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid is sweetly old-fashioned. It reminds us that though the year on the calendar may change the experience of growing up doesn’t. The suburban neighborhood depicted here could be pretty much any time and place in the United States since the end of WWII. Sure cars, fashions and technologies advance but surviving the challenges of lunch in a middle school cafeteria remains disturbingly the same.
As Eric said, this is really a series of stories dealing with Greg’s attempts to climb the social ladder by getting his picture in the yearbook as many times as possible. The entire school year unfolds during the course of the movie. The friendship between Greg and Rowley as they enter their middle school years is the underlying theme. We witness their falling out and eventual reconciliation.
Both boys are quite talented. Zachary Gordon makes the perfect Greg Heffley in that he is just a normal little boy without any outstanding talents or obvious defects. Robert Capron though, steals the movie as the overweight Rowley Jefferson. He is a natural in front of the camera. Eric you mentioned that Fregley could teach Greg a thing or two about being yourself but so could Rowley. He is guileless and often a pawn in Greg’s schemes yet he manages to be cool and popular anyway.
This movie has plenty of heart. Greg is a character that kids of any age can surely relate to. The sixth grader point of view exaggerates things slightly but for the most part Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a realistic look at the foibles of childhood right before the dawning of adolescence. The jokes are more chuckle inducing than laugh out loud funny. I enjoyed the scene where Greg gets a part playing a tree in his school’s production of The Wizard of Oz. The use of America’s most iconic fairytale adds to the movies’ timelessness and intergenerational appeal.
It’s easy to understand the popularity of these books and now the movie versions. Diary of a Wimpy Kid will make you cringe and/or smile with familiarity whether you are currently enduring the trials of middle school or looking back at them from a distance of several decades.
Zachary Gordon and Robert Capron in Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
My problem with this movie is that I didn't like Greg all that much. He's a little social climber who cared more about his own popularity than he did about his best friend's feelings. And yes, I know he's supposed to have learned his lesson by the end of the movie, but I felt as though his final "noble" deed was done more to further his own popularity than as a selfless act. Sure, he's still trying to find himself, but the entire movie he only thinks about one person, himself. Whether it's trying to change or get rid of his best friend or ditch some kindergartners, he doesn't care what happens to anyone else so long as it furthers his goal of being popular.
Like you Patrick, I thought that Rowley steals the movie. Here's a kid who doesn't care what anyone thinks about him and guess what? He's popular because of it. He lets it all hangout and while Greg will no doubt look back at his time in middle-school as stressful and angst-ridden, Rowley will blissfully move through life with an eternal optimism that will no doubt see him live happily ever after. As Annie (Susan Sarandon) said in Bull Durham, "The world is made for people who aren't cursed with self awareness."
The tone is light and the cast of kids all prove capable. The story is populated with distinct characters we can all relate to. The bossy girl, the quirky girl, the disgusting kid, the popular guy, etc. We all knew, and let's face it, still know people just like that. I mean, when it comes right down it, does life really change all that much after middle-school?
I don't actually want to be too harsh on Greg or this movie. It is charming and funny and even a bit old fashioned as you mentioned Patrick. It's aimed at kids, but even as a 42 year old, I still found things to like about it. This is that rarest of movies, a genuine family film. It doesn't talk down to kids and yet it doesn't leave the grown-ups out of the humor. If it comes close to emulating the books, it's easy to see why they're so popular.
Photos © Copyright Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (2010)