Judge Jim Thomas just hopes this year will be slightly less humiliating than the last.
Our review of Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, published July 3rd, 2011, is also available.
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Facts of the Case
With the beginning of seventh grade looming, Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) is mainly just hoping that this year will be slightly less humiliating than last year. His goals are dramatically elevated with the appearance of new student Holly Hills. Instantly smitten, Greg tries to skate with her, but is torpedoed by his older brother Rodrick. A series of escalating incidents between the brothers lead their parents to adopt The Parent Trap-esque punishment of leaving the two at home to work things out while the parents and the youngest son go on vacation (demonstrating that these are quite possibly the dumbest parents on the planet). Wackiness ensues in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules.
The plot is basically episodic, as Greg keeps trying to impress Holly and convince Rodrick that he isn't a total doofus. For his part, Rodrick vacillates between having fun with Greg and mercilessly tormenting him, while preparing to enter the school talent contest with his band, the awesomely named Löded Diper. Their mom (Rachael Harris, The Hangover) writes an advice column for the local newspaper; she shows no evidence of being able to offer any kind of sound advice, but the column titles serve as transitions from one sequence to the next. Steve Zahn (The Great Buck Howard) is utterly wasted as the dad, who basically…actually, I'm not really sure what he does. Ultimately, watching the movie is kind of like eating popcorn—it's okay enough while you're eating it, but instantly forgettable once it's over. At the same time, it's easy to see why it appeals to kids, as it taps into common fears and anxieties about school, not to mention impending adolescence. At the same time it appeals to the lowest common denominator; there's a ridiculous reliance on bodily function humor, which might put off some parents.
The movie does have one strength, and that's the dynamic between the kids. The sibling rivalry dynamic between Greg and Rodrick is believable, and Greg has a true-blue friend in Rowley. None of the characters are fully fleshed out, but in a sense that works in the movie's favor, as it makes it easier for kids to project themselves into the roles.
The MPEG-4 AVC-encoded video is pretty solid; as you might imagine, the film's palette tends towards vivid colors, and there's no flaring to be found, though there is noticeable grain. The DTS-HD track is good, but there's really nothing that gives it a chance to really shine. The extras feature an alternate ending, as well as a commentary track with the film's director, the improbably named Thor Freudenthal, and Jeff Kinney, who wrote the books (and who has a small part in the movie). It's a fun track, with all sorts of little things that were made up on they fly. It's also interesting to hear about the various restriction involved in filming with kids; it makes you appreciate kid movies a bit more.
There's just nothing quite like sibling rivalry. You have your brother's back one minute, and will be at his throat the next. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules is pretty generic, but its combination of a lot of energy plus a surprisingly goofy charm allows it to overcome a relatively predictable plot.
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