The cast/crew bit: directed by David Bowers, starring Zachary Gordon, Steve Zahn and Robert Capron
The 10-word synopsis: Boy finds himself in constantly awkward situations over summer holidays.
HEY! YOU! Do you like WINCING? How do you feel about watching behind your hand as somebody does something so stupid you can’t help but CRINGE? Do you revel in seeing people do exactly the wrong thing, time after time, causing you to CREASE YOURSELF? Well if all this sounds like your idea of fun, you’ll love the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies!
I must admit that I haven’t seen either of the previous two films, so for all I know, they might be closer to Citizen Kane than Dog Days. However, from the general shrug surrounding the third instalment in this particular franchise, I can only assume that this is simply more of the same. It’s almost like The Inbetweeners for kids- Most of the humour comes from well-built up, well-observed situations which have some sort of socially awkward climax. Only here they’re not really that well built up or that well observed. The film puts a scenario on the ground, and you know instantly where it’s going. (Unlike the aforementioned Sixth Form comedy) It’s going exactly where you don’t want it to. The wincing, the cringing and the creasing all hit, and at points the film becomes almost unwatchable, as you just know that the worst is coming, and you never want to see the consequences.
To say that’s it’s only trick this particular dog has in the locker would be a slight disservice, as the film has a few good lines and one particularly funny sequence near the end involving titular Wimpy Kid Gregs’ brothers’ band. While I couldn’t say the film, for all its cringe-worthy material, didn’t make me laugh, it rarely goes beyond a slight snigger. For me, I found Gregs’ older brother, Roderick, (Devon Bostick) the source of most of the laughter. He’s may not be one of the better-observed mardy teenager characters around, but he’s very well portrayed by Bostick. His range of expressions and comic timing is almost constantly spot-on, often redeeming scenes that otherwise come across as clichéd or old (Of which there are plenty).
The cast of child actors and no-name parents are actually pretty good, to be fair to them, even if the bane of all school-based series -The cast growing up- is clearly happening. Apparently this is the reason for the directors choice to combine the third and fourth books into one film, so that they can finish the cannon before Zachary Gordon is 38 and smoking 12 a day. The fact that there’s a further four books fills me with some degree of dread, but it’s a sort-of pleasant summer staple now, the Wimpy Kid movies. While I may be finding room to moan about it, I saw it in a screening of kids who were having a great time. On my 6th viewing of The Dark Knight Rises I was stuck in the ticket queue behind a group with one mother and six kids, all but one wearing T-Shirts with the cartoon depiction of Greg from the books on them, in varying poses. It’s a series with its fans, and these fans are never going to give a Wimpy Kid film a Prometheus-style advocate backlash.
So who am I to say the film made me cringe? I love childrens’ films and television, though to me it’s more of a fascination. This film is even less for people like me, who study the state of kids’ cinema, than it is for action film aficionado dads or horror movie-loving older siblings. It’s a film for kids. There is no secondary audience. It’s old fashioned. It ignores the existence of Pixar, Doctor Who and Harry Potter. There’s no need to cater for the other demographics, or provide some sort deep, hidden meaning. It’s a film that does the job it set out to do. And, for that, you can’t knock it.
5 dogs that only get about 3 minutes of screentime and play no role in the movie despite being in the title out of 10