The gawky, preteen protagonist at the center of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” is one of the more unlikable characters I have watched on screen this year. I have watched international terrorists construct plans to destroy the world, evil men carry out corrupt actions, and numerous counts of human immorality, but for some reason Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon)—that wimpy kid whose diary I’m supposed to care about—just rubs me the wrong way.
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” feels like a lie. More like diary of a little asshole.
But perhaps the true pricks lie behind the camera, crafting a shot early into the film where Greg submerges himself underwater at the local pool in order to escape his overwhelming stress—a shot and idea lifted straight from Mike Nichol’s film “The Graduate.”
For one, don’t mess with the classics. Secondly, Greg Heffley is not a post-college grad worried about his future, he’s an obnoxious kid who gets mad when his lazy plan to play video games all summer gets spoiled by his well-meaning but slightly overbearing father (Steve Zahn). And for any poor sucker hoodwinked into watching Greg’s pathetic story arc for 94 minutes—a generous combination of anger and annoyance is sure to arise.
In order to solve his summer problems, Greg flat out lies to his parents by telling them he got a job at the country club when really he is attending as a guest of his friend Rowley (Robert Capron). Rowley is a disturbing little side character whose sad and shocked facial emotions strongly resemble constipation, and whose creepy, wide-eyed, smiling face reminded me of a kid from a Stephen King novel guaranteed to stab me in my sleep.
And this is much of the film—one-dimensional characters placed in strategically stupid situations, meant to pad out the blatant lack of story present within this movie. This is hardly a movie, but rather a bloated sitcom more appropriate for the realm of kid-oriented channels.
Though I hardly think the 12 year old in me would find this film remotely enjoyable. While relatable in its portrayal of adolescent struggles (getting your yearbook signed, having nothing to do during the summer), ‘Dog Days’ has absolutely nothing to offer other than situations. The film is one loosely related incident after another, strung together with limp continuity and lame jokes. What good is a diary if it has absolutely nothing to say?
I haven’t seen the other two “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” films that preceded this one, yet I imagine I missed out on much of the same shtick as I witnessed in ‘Dog Days’—unless this franchise has become severely less mature as its protagonist grows older, which I highly doubt.
The movie is a shallow, unfunny mess of poor situational comedy. For family films, this one is at the bottom of the barrel. It moves remarkably slow, feels astoundingly stupid, and is painfully unaware of how to tell an actual story.
When the climax of the movie is Greg’s irritating older brother Roderick (Devon Bostick) belting out a shriek-filled, ear-obliterating rendition of Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” it’s time to go back to the drawing board. If only this movie had just been scrapped altogether.
Greg Vellante is a film critic for The Eagle Tribune.