Movie Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid Dog Days

To make up for subjecting you all to the horror of Fifty Shades, I’m giving you something considerably lighter and more fun today.

On Saturday, for the sake of spending quality time together as a family, we did something we rarely do: we went to the movies. I had promised I would take Jack to see the latest installment of the big-screen versions of his favorite book series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. We dragged Dad and little sis along for the ride (the former less reluctantly than the latter). Surprisingly, all four of us enjoyed the movie. Even more surprisingly, it was more than just a kids’ comedy.

My son has read every book to date at least twice, and we own both previous movies on DVD. I’ve never read or watched any of them. Having seen Dog Days, I can honestly say I think I’ve been missing out.  My son assures me that this particular adaptation was very close to the book.  I now want to read it for myself to find out.  I can honestly say that I haven’t laughed that hard at a movie in years.  If that’s any indication of what’s in the books, it’s no wonder that kids everywhere, boys and girls alike, are devouring them.

As I watched the film, I was struck with the thought that this is The Wonder Years for the current generation.  The hero (and narrator) of the series, Greg Heffley, is a cross between a gentle everyboy and a complete screw up, for lack of a better term.  The way he stumbles through pre- and early adolescence is a brilliant mix of side-splittingly funny and achingly endearing.  Despite never having been a boy that age, I still found my own gawky, uncertain teenage self in him.

Fourteen-year-old Zachary Gordon, the star of the film, is impossibly adorable and absolutely perfect.  He does, in fact, remind me very much of Fred Savage at the same age.  Having literally grown up with The Wonder Years (I am only a few months older than Fred Savage, and his character was a grade level below me), I would not be surprised if this is intentional.  After all, my generation is just now old enough to have children that age, or at least old enough to read the books.  Either way, Gordon is the perfect choice for this role.  I found myself simultaneously laughing at his plight and wanting to give him a hug and tell him it would all be okay.

The rest of the cast is surprisingly talented for a group of young people.  Ordinarily, I’m not impressed with the young stars of book-to-movie translations.  They seem more often than not to have been chosen because they “look” the part, rather than for their skill in front of a camera (see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, for example).  I hope that we will be seeing more from these young people in the future.

As for the movie itself, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Usually when a movie’s laughs are based on embarrassment or humiliation, I feel uncomfortable laughing at someone else’s mishaps.  But in this case, the fun came from being able to relate to the characters and their awkward situations.  Viewers should be prepared for the fact that there is some rude/gross humor, though it is far milder than most films aimed at Dog Days‘ target audience.  There is no “mature” content of any type, including swearing, which meant that I was comfortable taking my seven-year-old to see it.

It isn’t necessary to have seen the previous films, nor to have read the book.  The movie makes sense on its own, and each story is a self-contained plot.  If you are looking for a family-friendly movie for ages five and up, then I highly recommend this one.  Where I live, it’s currently playing in the second-run theater.  Otherwise, you may have to rent it in a couple of months.  Trust me, it’s worth it.


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