When I first started this site I think the top 5 things I wanted to cover were Superhero or Disney related, the Simpsons, Futurama and, weirdly enough, Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
This series of books and movies came out at the right time in my life. We follow this young boy’s cruel but often hilarious school and everyday activities. A big reason why I wanted to cover this now is, as of 2020, it’s the first movie’s 10th anniversary and also I have a huge appreciation for The Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series which was one of the biggest inspirations for me to create stories of my own. As you can see, this franchise is close to my heart and the movies that first introduced me to Greg Heffley I believe to be the most underrated trilogy in the history of cinema.
I will admit they’re not master class cinema and nostalgia points also help, but on rewatch as a grown man, no longer a small boy, all three movies hold up extremely well. I think the people who made these movies were aware of that and they kept making consistently entertaining family movies that together add up to this great trilogy. I don’t think I have ever seen a trilogy so consistent since my first watch of Austin Powers.
Lastly, before we start talking about Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I might as well mention that this is going to be a three parter. I have a lot to say about these movies, so either stay tuned until the Rodrick Rules and Dog Days posts are available or if you have arrived late to this party then scroll right down to the bottom of this review and there should be an appropriate link so you can continue on your Wimpy Kid journey.
As I said at the start I was the same age as these kids when this came out, which was pretty damn awesome. At the end of the day, all of these movies are simple fun family movies, but this particular one I found the most nuanced of the whole trilogy, thanks to the huge focus on what a cruel and unfair place Middle School is.
The basic premise is The Wimpy Kid, Greg Heffley, is going to be rich and famous someday, but right now he’s only a nobody middle school kid, but is self-proclaimed as being at the 19th mark in the top 200 of the most popular kids in his class. Greg’s goal is to climb to the top of the ladder and land in his Year Book’s Class Favourites. Greg could achieve this by just approaching the really popular kids and kind of sucking up to them then he’ll be famous that way, but who wants to see that. Greg’s way normally involves concocting some sort of an elaborate scheme, with getting noticed such as getting into the school play or joining the wrestling team, which always have the tendency to blow up in his face. Along for the ride is Greg’s best friend Rowley, a kind gentle child who is none the wiser as to how he should act in middle school. Also Chloe Grace Mortez is in this as the moral compass for the two boys. Not much to say about her, except I kind of like how she sees straight through Greg.
The main thing to remember about the plot of each entry in this trilogy is that Greg has one big goal to conquer and must also go through some emotional turmoil with one of the major supporting players, in this film that being Rowley. The over arching story of Greg and Rowley is the emotional core, while Greg’s attempts at fame are the gags or set pieces that are dotted throughout the movie. The story itself isn’t too bad, but the jokes are why we’re all here. Some of the humour can be a bit immature, while most hits the bullseye.
Another thing of note is that all three movies nail the casting and acting, especially for a movie like this that completely relies on the child actors to not suck! Amazingly everyone excels, especially Zachary Gordon who plays Greg, because if you have seen this then you know if they got this character wrong then it could easily break the movie. Thankfully Zach pulls this off effortlessly, as Greg is very likable and his completely self absorbed mentality just makes him extra charming. The other big standout would be Devon Bostick as Greg’s older brother Rodrick who you will soon find out is the best part of these movies.
I re-read some of the books, only to please my need for perfectionism. I was very surprised, how faithful these movies are. The first one in particular, as we will explore later how the other two movies really differ from page to screen. The biggest difference for the first movie is it makes the pretty plotless book feel more like a cohesive Hollywood narrative. Side characters like Chirag and Patty Farrell are expanded upon to make them more memorable. The movie also builds on the book’s original gags, by giving a bigger more hilarious pay-off. I remember being disappointed when I learned book Greg only pelted Patty with one apple. I much prefer the movie version where they had this epic apple fight live on stage. It’s awesome!
My main criticism would lie with the story. My least favourite part of the book, the Anti-Bully police or Safety Patrol section, now thanks to the movie makes no sense in Greg’s ultimate goal of becoming popular. This school has been set-up to be a pretty mean spirited place as we already seen with ‘The Cheese Touch’ and with the sport classes. Sure the Safety Patrol does gives you special privileges, but all I see is a much similar way to earn yourself more humiliation. Hell, Good Boys made fun of this concept. What’s worse is it has to happen because that is how Greg screws up so much that Rowley finally calls him out for being a sucky friend.
At least the ending makes up for it where Greg properly pulls his thumb out and takes the fall for Rowley eating the cheese, calls out all of his classmates for being so stupidly childish and telling them to grow up. It doesn’t work of course, but Greg and Rowley are friends again, and happy endings!
Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a good family movie with funny jokes, good characters, great acting and an emotionally satisfying story. This is about all you would want from a children’s movie, right? That’s correct, but if you want that and more than why don’t I introduce you to the best movie of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid trilogy.
Link to Next Part: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules Review