Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Review
Diary of a Wimpy Kid Synopsis: Greg Heffley is an ambitious kid with an active imagination and big plans to be rich and famous. The problem is that he has to survive middle school first.
As a child growing up in the late 2000s, Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series presented a fresh perspective on the doldrums of middle school life. Kinney developed a succinct voice on the page, blending his charmingly straightforward stick figure cartoon design with a plethora of relatable childhood pratfalls. The author’s breakout novel morphed into a beloved childhood brand, including an endless onslaught of sequel novels, a TV series, and four film adaptations.
While the live-action films had some charming appeals, the brand makes a welcomed return to the cartoon sphere with this Diary of a Wimpy Kid reboot. Borrowing exclusively from Kinney’s novel – he has the only screenwriting credit – the film delivers an earnest yet entirely disposable iteration of the novel’s charms.
It starts with enough promise. Director and Animation stalwart Swinton O. Scott III reintroduces audiences to Kinney’s comic book-esque designs in his opening frames, a decision that acts both as a charming homage and an expressive vehicle for the madcap childhood vignettes. Scott and Kinney are serviceable-enough in their cinematic adaptation, weaving the novel’s mix of slapstick gags and tongue-in-cheek humor in a way that should please the young diehard fans of the material.
The film may please its intended demographic, but Diary of a Wimpy Kid performs the bare minimum in entertaining anyone outside that limited sphere. The barely feature-length 56-minute runtime never finds a coherent voice, delivering little characterization or storytelling structure as it lazily reincorporates gags from the page. Even with Gregg never being the kindest of protagonists on the page, the film struggles to convey the self-deprecation streak that made him a relatable everyman for readers to follow. The character’s on-again-off-again friendship with the overbearing Rowley also feels like a vacant shell of what existed on the page.
Then there’s the animation. After welcoming viewers with the refreshing sights of the novel’s time-honored iconography, the film bizarrely switches up to a 3D style that is frankly unpleasant to look at. The approach maintains the blockiness of the novel without conveying any of its expressiveness, coming off more as a cheap knock-off rather than a sincere way to modernize the material. It just seems like Scott and his team did not have much of a budget, with this reimagination delivering a bargain bin rendition of the elements that worked so well on the page.
Even as someone viewing the film with nostalgic, rose-tinted glasses, Diary of a Wimpy Kid provides no discernable reason to exist aside from continuing the franchise’s money train. Whether fans like it or not, a sequel is already on the way…