Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (2012)
6/10 Deadbeat Summers
One more reason why it pays to listen to nine-year-olds.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is about a nerdy seventh-grader whose plans to play video games all summer are ruined when his dad catches him lying about his daily activities, unplugs the TV, and tries to get him (dun-dun-DUUUUN!) an internship at the office. Rather than spend his days in a cubicle, and at the risk of being sent to a dreaded prep school, the kid thinks fast and lies about getting a job at his friend’s country club. Luckily, his dad buys it, and so our soon-to-be eighth grader tries to make the most out of his vacation by hanging out with best friend, avoiding his older brother, and working his way out of the friend zone with the girl of his dreams.
Believe it or not, I’m pretty unfamiliar with the Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise. Haven’t read the books, haven’t seen the other movies, and if I didn’t live ten minutes away from my nine-year-old brother, I probably wouldn’t be writing this review. Not that I have anything against it, it’s just that my days of getting excited over movies that star a ginger kid named Fregly are long, long gone. Then again, my brother is the man, and if he vouches for something, I’m taking that suggestion to the bank. So like the good brother I am, I got on the bandwagon, brought my wife (the trooper that she is) along for the ride, and proceeded to have a good old time.
Despite this being my introduction to the franchise, I can totally see the appeal. Sadly, the story of our wimpy kid Greg Heffley is almost a mirror image of my own life at 13. He’s an “indoor person,” a kid whose perfect day boils down to: 1) gaming non-stop, and 2) eating, bathing, and urinating only when absolutely necessary. Lord almighty, have I had days like that. He’s also the kind of kid who makes one screw-up decision after another, all of which go against his better judgment, and all of which come back to bite him. I won’t go into detail being that some memories are better off repressed, but, again, the similarity is striking. Not to mention his possible banishment to prep school, which totally happened to yours truly.
Kids, it pays to do your homework.
I forget the exact moment when my wife and I both came to the realization that Greg is Aiden and vice-versa, all I remember is smiling at her on the verge of laughter while she hung her head in shame. In my defense, I’ve grown up a lot since 13, and I’ve always been athletic for that matter, but who am I kidding, I’d still grab the PS3 if my house went up in flames.
I really wasn’t expecting to see so much of myself reflected so accurately in this movie, and it really went a long way in getting me way more invested than if I’d been, say, an Eagle Scout. I also think a lot of kids today are like Greg and I, maybe to an even more unhealthy degree. Nothing in this world will harsh an adult’s mellow like watching a kid playing his PSP on gorgeous, sunny day, but alas, that’s just the generation we live in, folks. If there’s one thing I can truly applaud Diary of a Wimpy Kid for, it’s how true-to-life it is, depressing as it may be.
But don’t get me wrong, it’s only depressing because I’m getting all nostalgic right now. The movie itself is the furthest thing from depressing, nor is it out to make our children feel like bums. In fact, it’s actually pretty funny, provides some worthwhile lessons for parents and kids alike, and has an amusing cast of characters to boot. There was a part of me that felt kind of bad for laughing with these wimpy kids, especially Greg’s best friend Rowley who looks like a cross between John Denver and Canteen Boy, but they are endearing and they’re more than just punchlines. Same reason I don’t feel bad laughing at everyone in Napoleon Dynamite. Special mention to Devon Bostick who plays Greg’s older brother, Rodrick. Kid clearly has a knack for this thing and sings that god-forsaken “Baby” song way better than the Biebs ever did.
Also great to see Steve Zahn as Greg’s dad. I don’t care what anyone else says, Steve Zahn is awesome. Always has been, always will be. Why isn’t he a household name yet?
Anyway, I enjoyed myself, but 25-year-olds with beards and wives aren’t the target audience here. So when it was all over, I referred to my brother: the superfan in residence. Completely straight-faced so as to not sway his opinion, I leaned over and asked him, “So what’d ya’ think?” With a big ol’ smile on his face and an enthusiastic thumbs-up (a look synonymous with his older brother), he replied, “Pretty good!” Nodding in agreement, I asked him how it compared to the other movies, to which he pondered, “I don’t know, I kinda like them all the same.” And as to how it compared with the source material, he reflected, “Well, there are some things I like more about the books, and some things I like more about the movies. So they’re both good.” Not to badger him any more than I already had, I finished with one question: “Better or worse than The Avengers?“
Another big smile. “The Avengers.”
And there ya’ have it. My brother is the man.
It’s kinda weird to write about a movie like this since I’ve gotten so used to rambling about the deeper meanings and broader implications of all these “grown-up movies” I watch. Granted, there’s not a lot of that going on here, but after all the artsy fartsy, R-rated, and generally kid-unfriendly stuff that I inundate myself with, it’s actually really nice to step back and lighten up for a change. Sure, the editing’s a mess and there’s a lot going on, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to smiling the whole way through. It also gave my wife some major giggle fits, the likes of which I’ve never seen before. I kid you not, the woman was convulsing.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is just harmless fun, and at the end of the day, us grown-ups could use more harmless fun in our diets.