Eye For Film >> Movies >> Diary Of A Wimpy Kid 2 (2011) Film Review
Diary Of A Wimpy Kid 2
Reviewed by: David Graham
Following hot on the heels of last year's kid-lit smash, Rodrick Rules is the sort of film that you really want to hate but has you secretly hating yourself for actually quite enjoying. Director David Bowers has proved his mettle with animated hits Flushed Away and Astro Boy, and successfully makes the difficult transition here to helming what is basically a live action cartoon. Even though it might not seem obvious to discerning adults, lots of care and attention to detail has been lavished upon this film; despite the crude laughs and ADD-afflicted plot, the film offers plenty of warmth and insight while sitting a good few technical notches above other standard pre-teen fare. Its likability is increased ten-fold by the best efforts of the alarmingly talented child cast, putting genre veterans like Steve Zahn and The Hangover's Rachael Harris to shame.
The film follows original 'wimpy kid' Greg and chums into his second year at middle school, where his relief that he's no longer bottom of the food chain is tempered by the fact he's still clearly making no headway in the social pecking order. Greg's helpless infatuation with and pitiful attempts to impress a pretty new girl land him in all sorts of embarrassing situations, on which his big slacker-rocker brother Rodrick is only too keen to capitalize. Things look set to go from bad to worse with their parents' insistence that they spend time bonding with one another. However, the brothers are pleasantly surprised to find the enforced friendship has its benefits, but success with their various teenage trials could depend on whether or not it will last.
True to sequel convention, Bowers' film ramps up the first film's qualities to excess; it's like a pre-pubescent Judd Apatow production, complete with gross-out humour and borderline inappropriate knob gags. The film would also work as a gender-reversed prequel to Mean Girls, as it riffs on many of that film's most enjoyably deployed cliches, such as the precocious Indian nerd and the cringe-inducing talent show. Bowers does lose sight of some of the original's sweetness; his film is a little too manic, and tries a touch too hard to be comic all the time. But his use of animation to link scenes neatly glosses over the episodic structure, and his mounting of some pretty epic pratfalls and humiliations is so over-the-top that it has to be admired.
His biggest boon is the absolute gusto with which his young performers attack the material. Whether it's the outright disgusting Fregley channeling Superbad's 'McLovin' but in even more unwittingly obnoxious fashion, or the sweetly chipper Rowley putting his naively positive spin on everything, both the characters and the actors bringing them to life should prove a delight for anyone who can remember being or actually is still in school. The supporting players often outshine the central characters in these films, but here Zachary Gordon and Devon Bostick are so committed to the material as the warring brothers that it's hard not to get involved in their sibling rivalry, particularly for the brief period where it begrudgingly gives way to mutual admiration. Gordon brings the same sort of old-before-his-time exasperated charm to his narrator as Fred Savage did to The Wonder Years, while Bostick's frantic mugging and wry rule-bending persona mark him out as one to watch.
The girls in the cast fare less favorably; the object of Greg's affection is nicely fleshed out but their class' Amazonian ice maiden is a poor replacement for Chloe Moretz's cheeky outsider, while Harris is way too intense as the embarrassing mom who has no concept of how much she's shaming her kids. Zahn is also completely wasted, reduced to standing in the corner and shrugging as his family indulge themselves in mishap and mayhem around him. The film tries hard to inject some meaning and message into its latter moments, but this just comes across as sentimental and schmaltzy; this is perhaps unavoidable given the target audience and source material. But the kids this film is aimed at will lap up every second, and any accompanying adults may be pleasantly surprised if they can see past the toe-curling immaturity and paint-stripping perkiness of it all.Reviewed on: 21 May 2011