December 5, 2021

Review: “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” is Detrimentally Cheesy

To quote Dune’s Baron Harkonnen, “when is a gift not a gift?”

The third Diary of a Wimpy Kid film reboot is upon us, this time in the form of a 3D animated Disney+ original that strictly adapts the first book (released nearly fifteen years ago…now I’m feeling a bit old). Like the others, Wimpy Kid follows Greg Heffley (voiced here by Good Boys’ Brady Noon) as he navigates the complexities of middle school with his well-meaning best friend Rowley.

I’ll be honest — I’m a big fan of the books. I buy the new one every year, and I usually find them to be enormous fun. I enjoyed most of the other film adaptations (barring 2017’s The Long Haul), and so naturally I was excited for this reboot. When I pulled it up to watch, I was initially hesitant at the scant 58-minute runtime. That technically makes it a feature film, but it’s not a good sign.

Just as I thought, almost all of the supporting characters and some legitimately funny plot-lines from the first book are cut out. I’m sure it’s all in the name of efficiency and saving animation money, but part of what makes the Wimpy Kid series a lot of fun are the tangents it goes off on and the little vignettes that Greg finds himself a part of.=

Speaking of the animation — I could never look past it. It’s unique, to say the least, bringing the uncannily-drawn 2D characters to the third dimension. They just don’t look that good in 3D, which makes me even more confused as to why they can’t make a Wimpy Kid movie entirely in the 2D “diary drawings” that open and close every feature adaptation of the series.

While it often feels more like a TV special, I was grateful that Diary of a Wimpy Kid didn’t overstay its welcome. It doesn’t rush through its story, but it doesn’t needlessly extend it either; everything happens in its own time, and I very much appreciated that aspect. However, I would have liked to see the inclusion of some of those extra storylines — they would have made the film more fun, and would have bumped the runtime past an hour.

So, in essence, Disney’s Wimpy Kid didn’t necessarily measure up to my expectations. I couldn’t really get past my discomfort with the animation, and all it really did was make me want to revisit the live-action versions. However, the spirit, style and wry humor of the Wimpy Kid story is still there (undoubtedly helped by the fact that original author Jeff Kinney wrote the screenplay), and I’m going to chalk it all up to harmless fun. My undying love for the source material compels me to like this movie, and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that I’ll be watching the sequel when it hits Disney+ next year. [Grade: B-]

Director: Swinton O. Scott III

Writer: Jeff Kinney

Starring: Brady Noon, Ethan William Childress, Chris Diamantopoulos, Erica Cerra

Rated: PG for rude material and some thematic elements

Available: Disney+
Fun Fact: Diary of a Wimpy Kid is the first 20th Century Studios release to be branded as a Disney film.

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