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Diary of a Wimpy Kid | reviews, news & interviews

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Look, no CGI: a kids' movie with actual kids in it and nice values

Cartoons made flesh: Grayson Russell, Zachary Gordon and Robert Capron as wimpy kids

NB Since it was co-opted by the New Labour project to make them sound like humans, I’ve gone off the word “kids”, but let’s make an exception for a film called Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

The film is based on Jeff Kinney’s book series, first published in the US in 2007, which I suspect has not been as big over here as in the States (illustrated below).

Diary-of-a-Wimpy-KidGreg Heffley is an adroit draughtsman, and fills his journal with doodled caricatures of the figures he comes across in his first year at middle school. There’s his porky pal Rowley, the unspeakable geek/ freak Fregley and a cool girl who loiters in the shadow dispensing sound advice which, coming from a female of the species, Greg would sooner ignore. That’s one of the fetching things about the film: its honest acknowledgement that pre-pubertal boys are far keener staying onside in their all-male peer groups than impressing or even acknowledging the existence of another gender.

At that age it’s all about waiting – to grow, to kick off the ankle-weights of boyhood. Greg entertains the same unrealistic fantasy as all dreamy children: “I'll be famous one day”, he advises, “but for now I'm stuck in middle school with a bunch of morons.” Who are all bigger than him. The Napoleon complex is a familiar trope of children’s entertainment, nowhere better explored than in the person of Stewie in Family Guy. The joke underpinning it is the distance between the wimp’s perception of himself and the reality. Greg is routinely belittled by his big brother, has to sit on the floor in the school canteen where every spare seat is suddenly reserved, is picked on by cruel older dudes and pays for taking his best friend’s loyalty for granted. He even gets beaten at judo (pictured below) by the year’s psychotically nasty princess in pigtails. And so on.

Diary-of-a-Wimpy-Kid-4The plot delivers an unschmaltzy sermon on the value of friendship. It’s by no means challenging. The script leaves some supporting characters dangling without much to do - always a danger when there are as many as four writers credited. But director Thor Freudenthal knows how to sell a sight gag, weaves the books’ original cartoons into the screen narrative, and generally recaptures something of the genre’s lost innocence. Zachary Gordon as Greg and Robert Capron as his sidekick are both competent young performers. Grayson Russell does a lovely turn as Fregley.

Without any whizzbangery to dazzle the senses, will anyone go and see it? The title does almost nothing to seduce the junior demographic nowadays fed a solid diet of gnashing dinosaurs and inappropriate references to sex. Boys, the marketing execs have concluded, don't need to see films about diaries, or indeed wimps. Diary of a Wimpy Kid is no masterpiece, which may explain why the film is being nervously released just as its target audience is heading back to school: it’s got one bank holiday weekend to earn its spurs. But that's part of its charm. Hey, for 90 minutes on a plane it kept this reviewer’s inner wimp in a state of pleasant inertia. No kidding.

Watch the Diary of a Wimpy Kid trailer (YouTube):

The title does almost nothing to seduce the junior demographic nowadays fed a solid diet of gnashing dinosaurs and inappropriate references to sex

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