Directed by Thor Freudenthal
Cast: Chloe Moretz, Steve Zahn, Rachael Harris, Devon Bostick, Zachary Gordon, Alex Ferris
Live-action adaptation of Jeff Kinney's illustrated novel about a wise-cracking junior high school student.
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Trading in witty material for gross out slapstick is never a good idea, especially if done poorly. Thatís the case here with Diary of a Wimpy Kid which tries to adapt the clever and fun humor of the book of the same name, but simply loses its charm and intelligence along the way. Itís not that the film requires intelligence, but there is no need to dumb down the material for the sake of the younger audience because if anything Pixar has shown that less is more, and that the younger audience is smarter than most realize.
Diary of a Wimpy Kids tells the story of a young wimpy kid named Gregg Heffley starting his first day at middle school. Heís bullied, picked on, and has a hard time finding his niche in an environment whose purpose, it seems, is to make is life horrible. To Gregg, middle school is the worst idea ever. To make matters worse, he has off beat parents who are oblivious to their sonís perils, an older brother too cool for his age and an annoying little baby brother. He writes all of his woes down in a journal, not a diary which he is the first to tell you, whether you care or not.
The story comes from the popular childrenís novel that uses illustrations and quick witty on liners the same way a comic strip from the funny pages does. The book series is actually good and certainly worth adapting, if done the right way. Here, weíre given material that not even Nickelodeon does anymore. Thatís saying something.
Younger audiences may find the humor amusing, and they will, but the series is so much better than that. Itís frustrating to watch knowing that the charm, quirky spirit and the heart of the story is lost. Why? Part of the problem with the film is the supporting cast which give only decent performances, then again, considering the material they had to work with its not entirely their fault.
Zachary Gordon however is exceptional in his performance. His comedic timing is on point and many of his lines are funny, just not funny enough to save the film. Another standout actor is up and coming Chloe Mortez who will be seen in Kick Ass playing Hit Girl, a violent superhero who works with her father to clean up the streets.
In Dairy she plays schoolmate Angie who advises Gregg about the inner workings of middle school. Chloe does a nice job in her role.
The author Jeff Kinney said in an interview that he was reluctant to allow a film to be created. His argument was that he wasnítí sure if they could capture the charm and heart of the series. There were many offers which he turned down, however this time around he asked to be a part of script and casting of the film. Good, if only it made a difference and after watching this version, you wonder how bad the other scripts presented were. Maybe we got lucky.
To be clear this isnít a horrible film, just disappointing when you consider the material that inspired the film. Children and parents alike admire and respect the books not only for its quirky cartoons, but because of the characters, story and the universal message that everyone can relate to. None of that comes through in the adaptation, and because of that, this is one of those cases where the book is better than the movie.