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DVD Review: ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’

★★★☆☆

Being that director Thor Freudenthal has only one previous feature to his name, and that being Hotel For Dogs (2009), you’ll forgive me for approaching his second outing, Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010), with a hint of trepidation. As a somewhat cynical twenty-something, it’s always hard to review the kind of wholesome, well meaning output that the film industry produces for its younger viewers, so I’ll be attempting to view this movie with my cynicism shelved.

A classic, coming-of-age comedy, Diary of a Wimpy Kid follows the middle-school mis-adventures of one Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) as he attempts to negotiate myriad obstacles in his first year of what a British audience might best understand as junior school. Quickly identifying popularity as the common currency of the pre-teen masses, Greg hatches numerous unlikely plans to win the adulation of his peers and thereby a coveted place in the school year book; cementing social buoyancy for the coming years.

Trading in quaint sentiments and hackneyed cliches with the shame-faced saturation that only a children’s movie can carry off, Diary of a Wimpy Kid invites us to share in Greg’s consistent failures as he comes to realise the over-arcing moral dictum of the tale. Characters are casually cast from tried and tested stereotypes, events unfold with a typical indifference to reality and nothing is quite as it ought to be. With all these detractions curtly set out you might be wondering why I decided to give the film three stars instead of one.

Well, as I set out in the first paragraph, I’m a cynical, grumpy so-and-so who spends most of his time pulling apart the blood, sweat and tears of exhausted independent filmmakers. What might be considered a short-coming in a more ‘worthy’ film making circles are actually quite appropriate in a film targeted at the right audience.

The concepts and ideas in Diary of a Wimpy Kid might come across as overly simplified, but your average ten-to-fifteen-year-old is unlikely to sit rapt with conflicted emotions as you chidingly deconstruct the human condition. Simple and silly, almighty Thor’s (yes, I bloody did and I don’t care how obvious you think it is – cold-hearted misanthropes can still have fun) second feature is carefully crafted, if bespoke to a more innocent sense of self.

The dialogue attempts to traverse the fine line between kiddy and teen humour, throwing in little touches for both sides with much success but, unsettled on who it’s appealing to, might drag at times for a younger audience or condescend to an older one. These issues aside, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a decent effort from a largely unknown cast (excluding the appearance of Kick-Ass [2010] star Chloe Moretz). 

Matthew Groizard