Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2021)
"Diary of a Wimpy Kid" stars Brady Noon, Ethan William Childress, Chris Diamantopoulos, Hunter Dillon, Christian Converey, and Erica Cerra. Released on Disney+ on December 3, 2021, the film has a boy attempting to survive middle school.
The film was directed by Swinton Scott, who directed episodes for shows like "Futurama", "The Simpsons", "The Looney Tunes Show", and "God, the Devil and Bob". It is a reboot of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid film series, which is based on the 2007 book of the same name by Jeff Kinney. Life is full of many challenges that test us both physically and mentally. However, none of them are as challenging as surviving middle school. Just ask the kid with the diary. Oh, sorry, I mean his "journal". Disney+ had revived another successful family-friendly franchise from 20th Century Fox last weekend. This time, it's a film series that humorously depicts the struggling days as a middle schooler: "Diary of a Wimpy Kid". Following its string of successful books, the series transitioned to the big screen in 2010 with a live-action adaptation of the first novel. Despite the mixed reviews, the film was a big enough hit to spawn three more installments until the series got canned by Fox. After the release of "The Long Haul" and the acquisition of Fox, Disney gave the franchise a shot at redemption by starting it over from scratch and giving it a new makeover. I didn't mind the "Wimpy Kid" movies growing up, especially the 2010 film. Sure, they don't have award-winning stories, but they usually compensate with their charming cast and humor. "The Long Haul"? Not so much. So I was hoping that Disney's take on the source material would turn things around and not wind up like its recent "Home Alone" film last month. Was it popular enough to lure in newcomers and long-time fans, or was it just as wimpy as its main character? Let's head back to middle school and find out.
The story follows Greg Heffley (Noon), a boy who is about to start middle school with his best friend Rowley Jefferson (Childress). Greg then feels pressured as he's worried that Rowley's childish tendencies will get them bullied and ruin his chance to become famous. To keep his dream alive, Greg will have to endure every mishap known to kid-kind, such as the dreaded "Cheese Touch", his ungrateful brother Rodrick (Dillon), and Rowley's child-like behavior. Like the 2010 film, the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" reboot adapts the first book in the series, seeing Greg and Rowley in their first year of middle school. As a result, it can feel like you're just watching the first live-action film again, but with a different style and a surprisingly short runtime. I'll get to the latter later on. Director Swinton Scott and "Wimpy Kid" author Jeff Kinney (who wrote and produced the film) were given the task to reintroduce the source material to newcomers and the fans of the live-action films. It's a task that usually determines the fate of a film franchise with a similar direction, especially if that franchise is about a frail child. As someone who watched the previous films, I'd say that the animated "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" offered pretty much what I would expect. It's a comical series of predicaments with the two characters dealing with adolescence and ungrateful teens. Unfortunately, the film didn't deliver anything else beyond that point. Regarding its plot, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" is a series of interconnected shorts stitched together to resemble a "film". While it did feature some humorous moments, the storytelling was a bit of a mess with its rushed pacing and weak character development. Everything just went by without a care in the world, which might be suitable for viewers with short attention spans, but it can also be a pain for those who want expanded storytelling. It isn't without its charm and messages about friendship and standing up for what's right, but they didn't last as long as the moldy cheese in the school playground. Luckily, I managed to find a couple of things that kept the film from being a complete embarrassment. One of them is the voice cast. Brady Noon and Ethan William Childress did an impressive job voicing Greg and Rowley, respectively, who Zachery Gordon and Robert Capron portrayed in the first three films. They suitably captured the distinct personalities of the two pals, even though one of them can be a pain to sit through. Spoiler alert: I'm talking about Greg. Greg is someone you would give a wedgie to in terms of his selfish persona. Throughout the film, he attempts to become popular in school and force Rowley to "grow up", leading him to take advantage of Rowley constantly. Central characters like him can be tricky to represent, especially in a family film. I don't mind them being jerks most of the time. It's just that they need to have a certain charm to their jerkiness to make them likable. Unfortunately, Greg struggled to fit that description. Another element I enjoyed was the animation provided by Bardel Entertainment. This was the first entry in the film series to feature CGI animation, an idea formed by Jeff Kinney himself as he wanted to feel like his books were "coming to life". Compared to the other animated films from Disney, there's nothing groundbreaking about its style. Still, it accomplished its goal in reimagining Kinney's character designs and environments uniquely. It's as simplistic and effortful as "The Peanuts Movie", even though it lacked the vast imagination of the latter. Aside from its average story and characters, the only flaw that baffled me was its runtime, which clocked in at precisely 58 minutes. I'm not joking. The movie is literally under an hour long, around the same length as an episode of a show on a streaming service. It's acceptable for specific viewers who are weary of films that last for more than two hours. Seriously, do you see how many movies we got this year that offer that beefy length? However, it did come with the cost of losing its sense of world-building and strong character moments. On the plus side, it does raise an interesting question of whether or not a runtime should be a factor in determining a type of content. In other words, if something is under an hour long, should it be classified as a movie or a television special, or even an episode of a Disney+ series?
Overall, the 2021 reboot of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" delivered a few moments that fans would see in the live-action films, for better or worse. Unfortunately, they may not be enough to lure in some newcomers narrative-wise. Nevertheless, it's an acceptable way to pass the time regarding its voice cast, animation, messages, and humor, especially if you liked the live-action films. Sadly, like its wimpy protagonist, its qualities prevented the movie from being as popular as the 2010 film, including its short length, average characters, and Jeff Kinney's screenplay. It's not as terrible as "The Long Haul", and it is undoubtedly not as torturous as "Home Sweet Home Alone" in terms of the Disney/Fox revivals (thank goodness), but it does mark a mediocre first step in the franchise's new direction. They're already working on the follow-ups to the reboot as of this writing, including the one based on Rodrick Rules, which arrives sometime next year. So here's hoping that they can improve upon their mistakes to regain the source material's popularity with those continuations.
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