Diary of a Wimpy Kid is well-written fun
Ah, the horrors of middle school.
Like some cruel limbo between childhood and adolescence, it's a cringe-worthy lesson in growing up, lined with embarrassment, awkward moments and an overwhelming desire to fit in. And those are the good parts.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid affectionately captures those moments with a wit and wisdom uncommon in most kids' movies.
Solidly written and consistently entertaining, Wimpy Kid, based on Jeff Kinney's bestselling children's books, is somewhat of a rarity.
It delivers a wholesome message without pandering to young or old, its protagonists are three-dimensional (without any special glasses), and there's not a single fart joke. In other words, it doesn't stink.
Wimpy Kid is the story of Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon, The Brothers Bloom), your typical 12-year-old enduring the three most trying years of his young life: Middle school.
Through Greg's diary (or journal, as he insists), we witness firsthand his comic struggles to achieve the popularity he so desires, a status to which he feels naturally entitled.
For Greg, it's not an achievement to be taken lightly. Too bad his best friend, Rowley (Robert Capron, Bride Wars), seems to take everything lightly, perfectly content with being himself, even if it means riding a pink bicycle (complete with streamers), wearing a serape to school or eating lunch on the cafeteria floor.
It's the type of stuff Greg tries desperately to avoid, as he attempts to claw his way to the top, in this case the yearbook's "Class Favorites" page. But there are obstacles aplenty to overcome - post-pubescent she-bullies, a slice of rotten cheese on the pavement that spreads "nuclear cooties," and freckled social pariah Fregley (Grayson Russell, Talladega Nights).
Despite his unflapping self-confidence, Greg's schemes fail miserably, though often hilariously, and a series of hastily chosen extracurricular activities does little to help.
But through thick and thin, the ever loyal Rowley is there to support, even when he's inadvertently embarrassing the snot out of Greg.
Wimpy Kid is not only a tale of growing up, but also of friendship. It's never preachy, but manages to convey its message intelligently through real-life situations that kids will appreciate and enjoy, while adults can chuckle, cringe and remember those bygone days of shirts vs. skins.
Adapted by Jeff and Jackie Filgo (TV's That '70s Show) and directed by Thor Freudenthal (Hotel for Dogs), Wimpy Kid effectively takes viewers back to middle school, but at a comfortable distance devoid of wedgies.
It helps that the casting is right on target, with some of the most impressive child acting since Slumdog Millionaire. Gordon nails his role as Greg, though it's Capron as the endearingly hapless Rowley who shines the brightest. Russell, as the perpetually bizarre Fregley, is also a hoot, and a well-rounded cast adds color to an already vibrant comedy.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid, rated PG for some rude humor and language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone and the Parkway Theatre in West Jefferson.