DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS
**** (out of 5)
August 3, 2012
Zachary Gordon as GREG HEFFLEY
Steve Zahn as FRANK HEFFLEY
Robert Capron as ROWLEY JEFFERSON
Devon Bostick as RODRICK HEFFLEY
Rachel Harris as SUSAN HEFFLEY
Peyton List as HOLLY HILLS
Directed by: David Bowers
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Some dads play sports with their kids. I watch movies with mine. While the cliche is all about playing catch with your pop in the back yard, my bonding moments come when my kids and I find a movie we can enjoy together. Because of this, I imagine that were I not a father, I probably wouldn’t be as fond of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” movies. However, as a dad of three boys, I absolutely love them.
My two oldest kids have read all four of Jeff Kinney’s books, and we have gone to see each of the films together. What I enjoy about these films is that they aren’t out to change the world. They’re just out to be entertaining, to be good clean fun. (Well, maybe somewhat clean, with a little bit of bathroom humor thrown in for good measure.)
In essence, these films are like the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon original programming. They aren’t high art, and they’re made for a very specific demographic. If you’re a ten-year-old boy (or have a ten-year-old boy’s sense of humor), you should like them too.
And I’m nothing if not a big, fat, hairy ten-year-old boy.
This third movie in the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series is actually the fourth book, though I imagine they pushed ahead for two reasons: 1) Zachary Gordon and Robert Capron won’t be able to play middle schoolers for much longer now that puberty is settling in, and 2) to try out a late-summer release instead of a spring release from the last two films.
“Dog Days” tells the story of Greg Heffley (Gordon) as he plans to play video games all summer long. However, when his parents intervene and expect him to be both active and get some sort of summer job, he has to change his plans. Greg uses his best bud Rowley’s (Capron) membership to a country club to pursue the pretty young Holly Hills (Peyton List). Of course, his brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick) threatens to blow his cover if Greg doesn’t also sneak him into the club so he can set his own sights on Holly’s sister Heather (Melissa Roxburgh).
As a sequel, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” plays much the same as the previous films. This makes perfect sense because director David Bowers also helmed the second movie, and practically every actor returns to reprise their roles.
Like the previous two films, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” relies less on a traditional narrative structure and more on an assembly of shenanigans that happen to Greg over the course of the movie. This falls in line with the disjointed nature of the books themselves, but it works in its own context.
Like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules,” Greg has grown a bit and isn’t the truly terrible friend to Rowley that he was in the first film. This endears the audience a little more to the character. In essence, Greg’s screw ups in this movie are still self-inflicted though they’re relatively victimless. It’s easy to see how some of the lies he tells can snowball into bigger problems that eventually come to a head.
Yes, there’s lessons to be learned in this movie, but that’s not the driving force behind it. What pushes the movie along is its desire to entertain and give the audience some fun. Many of the times Greg gets into a scrape is a result of a quite realistic situation, and he’s just not smooth enough to wiggle out of awkward moments gracefully.
There’s less Rodrick in this film, but he’s still lurking around the background quite a bit. The relationship between the brothers isn’t as adversarial as the previous films, but there’s still some conflict and angst to show the confines of Greg’s world.
Where the first film focused on Greg’s relationship with Rowley, and the second one focused on Greg’s relationship with his brother, this movie examines the relationship between Greg and his father. (And almost any movie could use a little more Steve Zahn in it, right?) It’s not done in an overly cheesy way, but it shows how difficult it is for some boys to connect with their dads, especially as they move into adolescence.
There’s a certain irony that I took my son to this movie, and we had a fantastic and fun bonding experience over it while Greg and his father struggled to get along. However, unlike Greg and his dad, me and my son have a common interest: the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” movies. And here’s why I will always have a soft spot for these flicks.