By Laurie Coker

Rating: D+

Few people have fond memories of their middle school years. While grades six, seven and eight do provide a necessary rite of passage for all ‘tweens into high school and ultimately life, I personally would have skipped them with fervor. My grandson, who hasn’t yet reached his middle school years,  loves reading the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, and so I went to the screening, skipping another, adult oriented film, because he begged me take him. While he thoroughly enjoyed the film, I squirmed in my seat, longing for the nearly excruciating experience to end.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days brings Greg Heffely (Zachary Gordon), his parents Frank (Steve Zahn) and Susan, baby brother Manny and his loser big brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick) back for the dog days of summer. Old friends (and enemies) return, Jeff’s best friend Rowley (Robert Capron) and classmate nemesis Patty Farrell (Laine MacNeil) and in Dog Days, we meet Holly Hills (Peyton List), Greg’s new love interest and her patronizingly snobbish older sister, Heather,(poorly cast Melissa Rosxburg) on who Rodrick has a crush. Dog Days covers summer vacation between Greg’s seventh and eighth grade year and sadly fails to come close to the other two, which while not great, are at least bearably watchable.

Dog Days simply has no story of which to speak. Sure we have Greg trying to get close to Holly and trying to avoid his father’s wrath and disappointment (wherein lies the story’s main, poorly fleshed out theme), but an actual story –beginning, middle and end, with character and plot advancement, is seriously lacking.  Making matters worse, the gags and pratfalls lack oomph and truthfully are as tired as I felt watching this yawner. Being that he is in the target audience (ages 7-12), it didn’t surprise me that my grandson chuckled, guffawed and genuinely seem to enjoy himself throughout. I only wish I had as well.

I found the previous films at least tolerable, but this one painfully boring and asinine to endure. Unlike cast mates Capron and Karan Barar (Chirag), Gordon has nearly grown out of the utterly awkward stage of his youth, and so his plight never feels quite as pathetic as it should for a seventh grader in one of the Wimpy Kid books. I did enjoy Zahn who actually is surprisingly funny in an relatively unfunny, weakly executed film, and Gabe Sach‘s screenplay offers little from which any of the film’s stars to draw. In fact, it feels like director simply allows his cast to act ridiculous and to ham it up, never clearly offering anything of substance on which the audience can connect.

That Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days rated PG pleased Case and had him giggling gleefully usually goes far for me, but not far enough with this film. We read all the books together so it stands to reason we’d share the movies, but if there are more to come, I may just have to pretend I’m sick on the days they screen. I am placing a D+ in my grade book. The plus is there for my grandson who called it “awesome!”




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