With Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Rachael Harris, Robert Capron, Steve Zahn. Directed by David Bowers. Rated PG for some mild rude humor and mischief. 96 minutes.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODRICK RULES is strictly for the fourth to eighth grade set. Kids much younger might or might not get it, while teenagers in high school will have little interest in the problems of a middle schooler. Adults may want to avoid it all together.
Based on the popular book series by Jeff Kinney, this second film continues the adventures of Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) who is now in seventh grade. Although he still has problems dealing with his peers – he can pick on kids as well as get picked on – his real issue here is his older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick). Blessed with clueless sitcom parents (Rachael Harris, Steve Zahn), Rodrick constantly antagonizes and humiliates Greg, with Greg inevitably getting the blame. Mom even writes a newspaper column about being a parent where she gives advice based on her own blindness to such goings-on.
When things get out-of-hand, Mom decrees that the brothers must learn to get along and comes up with a harebrained scheme in which Rodrick will make money for going through the appearance of bonding with Greg. This leads to the central incident of the story where they are left home alone for the weekend and told not to have anyone over. Rodrick hosts a wild (well, PG-rated) party and soon the two brothers are bonding in sharing the cover-up.
This is an odd lesson for the film to be teaching impressionable viewers: the siblings that lie together stay together. In fact, it’s only a matter of time before consequences occur and then the brothers must bond for real. None of it is in the least bit believable but the film’s target audience will at least find it amusing.
Gordon is an engaging “wimpy kid,” able to be mischievous – as when he has his best friend Rowley (Robert Capron) over for a sleepover and they watch a forbidden horror movie – as well as act suitably victimized. The highlight for young viewers will undoubtedly be when Gordon ends up running through his grandfather’s retirement complex in his underwear. Why? You don’t want a review to give everything away, do you?
Bostick is a sitcom version of a “bad boy.” He’s in a rock band (called “Loded Diper”) and he has messy hair. His idea of a good time is leaving fake vomit where it will gross out people. Try not to be too shocked at his antics, which make him more of an heir of Eddie Haskell than a member of a street gang.
“Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules” is perfectly adequate entertainment for kids since, in the end, it has all the right lessons about family loyalty and looking out for each other. However, if you’re old enough to see how contrived it all is, you’re old enough to skip this and seek out something more entertaining at the movies.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.