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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules - Review

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2

Review by Lisa Giles-Keddie

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

KIDS films come and go, and some (shamelessly) rely on big 3D promises to get the younger audience into cinema seats. So, it’s nice to see a good old-fashioned kids film – minus 3D – with bundles of straightforward, playful fun that all generations can enjoy.

Sequels are tricky nuts to crack, especially with so much expectation involved, but with an army of young fans in tow, things should prove easier.

This is definitely the case with Part 2 of the Wimpy Kid series called Rodrick Rules that offers a mix of various moments in the book series and feels more heartfelt, funnier and a little less gross than the first film last year.

The book/film series follows Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), a kid who’s ‘wimpy’ cool, and his misfit band of friends.

In this film, Greg’s a year older and begins seventh grade at middle school. He and his rocker-wannabe older brother – and chief tormentor – Rodrick (Devon Bostick) must deal with their parents’ (played by Rachael Harris and Steve Zahn) misguided attempts to get them to bond.

In the meantime, Greg starts having feelings for girls – well, one in particular called Holly (the dolly-like Peyton List) – and must deal with growing up while fending off his brothers’ attempts to ruin his life.

Set up like a US TV sitcom, minus the canned laughter, Wimpy Kid 2 does well to paint a brief picture of each characters and doesn’t just annoyingly presume that you know the background story, hence leaving out the newcomer.

For those fond of the book’s cartoon style, the film-makers still blend animation and live-action to satisfy all tastes.

The story may well be for kids but it still targets adult nostalgia for school-day issues – such as fear of social exclusion and first crushes – in a quirky, snappy and witty fashion.

Watching Greg grow up feels like watching a little brother of your own, and the characters are some of the most fleshed out and appealing of many family films of late.

Gordon has developed Greg further, making him a little wiser and adding more depth in this film, as well as upped his comic timing for such a young actor. In fact, he and Robert Capron as his crazy, loyal friend, Rowley, make quite an accomplished comedic pairing in this.

Bostick returns as frustrated teen Rodrick, and shares a lot more screen-time with Greg – as the title suggests. Both actors convincingly portray that fine balance between brotherly love-hate with great humour, sentimentality and unspoken understanding.

Harris and Zahn are the chalk-and-cheese parents and excellent as the elder Heffleys, delightfully recreating all the childhood embarrassments you can possibly imagine – especially when trying to impress the opposite sex (cue Mom dance).

As with the younger members of the cast, Harris and Zahn have perfect comedy timing and rapport that keeps things authentic and sparky, making the family unit a complete one worth spending 101 minutes in the company with. This is ironic considering its ‘warring factions’.

The immature element would not be complete without touches of smut (Rodrick’s Löded Diper band) and bodily-function jokes (Greg’s ‘holy’ embarrassment), but none of it is done to excess at the expense of the storyline, with the visual gags never dwelled on but nicely edited to enhance what a character is going through at any one moment.

There’s a mixture of quick-fire gags and longer-running verbal quips (the Mom Buck exchange for spending time together) that keep the pace interesting and non-complacent, too.

Being able to relate is central to the series’ success, and with the help of a cracking sense of humour and credible family flaws, Jeff Kinney’s illustrated novel Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 has been carefully adapted and cannot help but resonate with anyone, regardless of being a fan or not.

Certificate: U
Running time: 101mins
UK Release Date: May 27, 2011