Sometimes my wife can spot when I’ve had it with a particularly bad film based on how long before I take off my glasses. Most bad movies make it as far as the half-way mark (Battle: Los Angeles), some as soon as 15 minutes (The Back-up Plan), and occasionally sooner (Furry Vengeance, Little Fockers). However, once in a while intuition gets the better of me and I know that it’s not worth the trouble of even putting them on. This week’s offender happens to be the totally unnecessary cash-in/sequel – Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules.
The first film didn’t have a whole lot going on behind the camera and the same can be said again here. The saddest part of director David Bowers live-action debut, is that most of his past work in the animation field have been pretty good choices – Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Count Duckula, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, Danger Mouse, Ferngully: The Original Avatar, We’re Back: A Dinosaur’s Story and Balto. It seems to be that once he switched gears from working under the tutelage of Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg to be taken under the wing of DreamWorks, things went awry (Flushed Away being the exception). But in all honesty, his worst offenders have been his two most recent – Astro Boy and now this.
In Rodrick Rules, Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon, one of the most annoying child actors right now) is entering a new school year and thinks that not being the new kid in a new school, as he was last year, he just may finally have a sweet ride ahead of him including setting his sights on new girl Holly Hills (Peyton List). That is, if older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick), his hypocritically-understanding parents Frank and Susan (Steve Zahn and Rachael Harris), and all of his schoolmates don’t try their darnedest to get in his way.
In true sequel fashion, and to ensure maximum continuity, Patty (Laine MacNeil), Fregley (Grayson Russell), Chirag (Karan Brar) and Rowley (Robert Capron) – his now best friend whom he apparently didn’t see once the entire summer according to one line of dialogue – have returned. Unfortunately for us, Chloë Grace Moretz was bright enough to move on to far bigger and better things.
Director Bowers does bring a far more visual style to this entry of what will probably be an ongoing series of films (the original unfortunately made five times its budget worldwide). But he also thinks that three poop jokes in a row are okay if you have a character comment on it. Just because Patty says, “Only an idiot would find humor in bird poop,” doesn’t make the so-called jokes beforehand excusable. That is unless maybe, by the end of the shoot, Bowers had mentally checked out as much as you will have by this point, and he was trying to make a statement. But that may be giving him too much credit.
Be sure to pay close attention to poor Steve Zahn’s every facial expression, as he seems to be the only actor who knows he’s trapped in a tried and true paycheck movie. I can only imagine what celebrity mortgage payments must be like to have taken on this project.
When Rodrick takes Greg out for a big night on the town, so to speak, all they do is hit up a convenience store where they eat hot dogs, get brain freezes and laugh behind a hedge. Big dreamers here, right? Speaking of which, this just brings to mind the fact that for a film about a teen with such dreams of grandeur, everyone from Bowers to the writers (Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah) are all on autopilot assuming that the target demographic will laugh at anything. Just so long as there’s wacky music playing in the background.
And if they thought they were being clever by never making a big deal out of Rodrick’s band’s name, Loded Diper, they sure do drive it into the ground when they play their big song for the local talent show. So alas, when Greg and Rowley bounce around the back of Rodrick’s seatless van and Rowley winds up sitting on Greg’s face, you can’t help but feel that the filmmakers are doing the same thing to you.
Photos courtesy Twentieth Century Fox