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The kid-oriented comedy Diary of a Wimpy Kid chronicles the misadventures of sixth-grader Greg Heffley and his nerdy best friend Rowley as they tried to climb their way up the social ladder of middle school. Surprisingly, it emerged last year as a sleeper hit, quickly making back its budget and garnering an ardent fan base.
However, its success is anything but undeserved. It brilliantly showcases the thoughts of the average middle-school student trying to navigate his/her way through life with a hilarious and witty bite. Now it gets a sequel in the form of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, which sees Greg developing a bond with his older brother Rodrick. This film offers lots of the fun that the first installment in the series did, though it overall falls short of that film on a number of levels.
To start off on a positive note, the performances are all top-notch. Zachary Gordon is still hysterically delusional as seventh-grader Greg Heffley, and Devon Bostick has some believable familial chemistry with him as the older brother Rodrick. Robert Capron completely steals his scenes as the naïve Rowley, and Rachael Harris and Steve Zahn do the best they can with their relatively weak roles as the parental figures in the Heffley household.
This sequel includes humor much similar to its predecessor. We see Greg get into many more embarrassing debacles this time around, and it’s an absolute delight that social pariah Fregley and snobby overachiever Patty Farrell return to the scene.
However, the two are certainly less intrinsic to the narrative than they were in the first film, and even these laughs are problematic in some areas. We hardly ever see the punch line coming, which is always a plus, but the jokes feel far more formulaic and calculated than those of the original film. Many of the problems in the humor department come from the staging and editing. The staging often places the characters in strange positions that oddly enough make for less memorable humor. Additionally, the editing often doesn’t match the comedic tone of the scene.
In regards to the plot, there’s far too much restriction. The progression of the plot, which keeps its focus on the love/hate relationship between Greg and Rodrick, works more efficiently than one would have expected, though it could have used a bit more fluidity. We get the stereotypical narrative of the two finally getting along, then dissenting, and finally returning to their brotherly bond instead of a unique, fresh take on a relationship between brothers.
However, the side plot that accounts for Greg’s relationship with love interest Holly Hills unfortunately feels like nothing more than forced filler material. There’s nothing that could have kept that one afloat.
Despite the bevy of laughter provided, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules runs into major problems with its plot and some less problematic dilemmas with the comedic delivery. It’s a treat for the kid in all of us, but “Rodrick Rules” doesn’t rule quite as much as its predecessor.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
Directed by David Bowers
Written by Jeff Judah and Gabe Sachs (screenplay) and Jeff Kinney (book)
Starring: Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Robert Capron, Rachael Harris, and Steve Zahn