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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

June 20th, 2011

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Two-Disc Special Edition DVD, or Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy Combo Pack

Diary of a Wimpy Kid opened in 2010, became a solid midlevel hit and earned good reviews, for a kids movie. Just one year later, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Ruleswas released, but did this short turnaround time result in an inferior film?

The Movie

It's a new school year and Greg Heffley is looking forward to being a seventh grader. Part of the celebration is a night at the roller rink, where he reunites with his friends from last year: Rowley, Fregley, and Chirag. He also meets Holly Hills, the new girl, and he's instantly smitten. However, his attempts to get near her are all ruined by Rodrick, his older brother and the evening ends in humiliation. Rodrick even manages to ruin his life at school, without even being there. (Greg's grade seven teacher taught Rodrick as well, and he holds a grudge.)

This sets up the main conflict of the movie, the dysfunctional relationship between Greg and Rodrick. Their mother decides they need to spend more time together, much to their dismay. (Their father doesn't think it's a great idea either.) It works about as well as you would expect, so as punishment, the boys are grounded and left home alone over the weekend. As far as parental decisions go, that's one of the biggest mistakes you can make. (At least the brothers get some bonding time during the cover-up of the massive party.)

Meanwhile, two other plot threads develop with Greg trying to woo Holly and Rodrick trying to win a local talent competition with his band, Löded Diper.

Compared to the first film, Rodrick Rules is, well, almost identical. It maintains a very episodic nature like the previous film did, even if it does have a stronger central narrative this time. You could easily strip out a lot of the scenes and rearrange them in any order and they would still be as effective. (The party scene is one of the few that has major consequences later on.) Normally this would be quite a failing in a film, but as a kids movie, it's forgivable. It's like you are watching 90 plus minutes of a sitcom with the episodes presented in a mostly random order. Some of these scenes are sitcom caliber and are merely there for easy laughs (like the scene in the church), but others have a little more heart to them. Also, Greg comes across as a lot more sympathetic this time around, although not entirely so. (His conflict with Chirag is a little mean at times.)

The actors are able to sell the material very well. Zachary Gordon and Devon Bostick have good chemistry as bothers. Rachael Harris is fun as the overly earnest mother, while Steve Zahn fades more into the background in this one. Greg's friends are also less prominent this time around with Robert Capron the only one getting any real screen time as Rowley. Laine MacNeil is also fun as Patty, Greg's nemesis. Besides that role she also has an amazing performance at the talent show. Finally there's Peyton List, who only has a few scenes where she's front-and-center, as her character, Holly, is mostly the unobtainable girl we see from afar. When she does get a chance, she makes the most of it.

I think if you enjoyed the first film, you will also enjoy this one. Conversely, if you didn't like the first one, I don't think this film will fair any better.

The Extras

There are two versions of the DVD. The first has just an audio commentary track with the director, David Bowers, and the writer of the original novels, Jeff Kinney. Plus there are two minute-long shorts under the My Summer Vacation menu with Greg and Rowley talking about what they did over the summer. That's not enough extras to lift this single-disc DVD past the rental level.

The Two-disc DVD has a bunch more My Summer Vacation shorts, seven in total, with the most of the main characters saying what they did over the summer. Next up are nine minutes of deleted scenes, with optional audio commentary with the director. Finally, there are four minutes of outtakes.

The Blu-ray includes all of the extras on the Two-Disc DVD, plus an alternate ending. It is also BD-Live enabled, but there's no exclusive at the moment. It also comes with the single-disc DVD and a digital copy of the movie.

The technical specs are what you would expect for a relatively low-budget kids movie. The detail levels are good, but not great. There's plenty of color, the black levels are deep, etc. The audio is mostly front-and-center, but at least the dialogue is clear, which is what you want from a film like this.

While the Blu-ray doesn't offer a whole lot more, the price is certainly right. It costs just $4 more than the single-disc DVD, and a whole lot less than the two-disc DVD.

The Verdict

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules is better than the average kids movie, and those who liked the first film will probably also like this one. If you are just looking for a rental, the DVD is fine, but if you are looking to purchase, then Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy Combo Pack is the way to go.

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