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

August 11th, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Diary of a Wimpy Kid made its debut in mid-March, which is a bit of a no man's land as far as release dates go. It didn't exactly have a massive marketing push, nor is there a lot of star power, but it opened with over $20 million and became a solid mid-level hit. That's even more impressive when you look at the competition that opened the week before. But will it appeal to fans of the book only, or does it have a more general appeal?

The Movie

Zachary Gordon plays Greg Heffley, the middle child of Frank and Rachel. As we meet him, it's a very big moment in his life: he is about to start middle school. He thinks middle school is the dumbest invention ever and dreads how kids like him who haven't hit puberty yet will be thrown together with kids who have already started shaving. But he's sure he knows how to survive. In fact, he's confident that by the end of the year, he'll be the most popular kid in his grade. He doesn't have as much hope for his best friend, Rowley (Robert Capron). Rowley is a bit overweight, a bit geeky, and very enthusiastic. He's not nearly as worried about his popularity, which is fine, as Greg is concerned enough for the both of them. Greg does get some good advice from Angie, who is a year older than him and a lot more mature. He also gets some less than useful advice from his brother, Roderick, who is older, but less mature.

Throughout the movie, Greg tries several plans to help raise his popularity in the school, from joining the wrestling team, to Safety Patrol, to the school play. No matter what he attempts, it always seems to backfire. Frequently Rowley also takes a hit as collateral damage. However, while this gets Greg down, Rowley takes it in stride. But when Greg gets him kicked off Safety Patrol, it might prove too much for their friendship. That is unless Greg can finally learn from one of his mistakes.

As protagonist and narrator, there's something amiss about Greg. He works as a guide to the horrors of middle-school and articulates the problems with the institution well. But as someone we are supposed to cheer for throughout the story, well, that part of his character is not as successful. I think he was supposed to come across as charmingly optimistic, however, hopelessly naive would be a kind way of describing him. You could also accurately call him self-absorbed, selfish, and a little mean. After he messes up his job on the Safety Patrol and Rowley is blamed, he simply says, "I decided Rowley should take one for the team." That's not really the type of behavior you want from the protagonist. I know, its all there to setup the inevitable redemption, but when the protagonist comes across worse than the bullies tormenting him, something has gone wrong. He would have been a whole lot more charming had he been a little less sure of himself and his troubles had been a little less self-inflicted. Or for that matter, it would have helped if his self-inflicted troubles didn't tend to hit Rowley more than they hit him.

There are some parts of the movie that do work, including Robert Capron as the eternally optimistic Rowley and Karan Brar is fun as Chirag Gupta. Chirag is the only kid smaller than Greg, and is the holder of the knowledge of the cheese. (It's this weird plot thread that moves through the movie, and its one of the best. It's has a surreal edge to it, something that middle-school kids come up with.) Also, as usual, Chloƫ Grace Moretz is great in the film. I am a little worried she might get typecast in "mature beyond her years" roles, but if she can play Darby in My Friends Tigger & Pooh and Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass, that will probably not be an issue.

It should appeal to its target demographic, and with a little luck, encourage them to read the books.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary with Thor Freudenthal, the director, and Gabe Sachs, the writer. It's not the most energetic track I've listened to, but there's plenty of information here. Also on the DVD is a section called Deleted Diary Pages, which includes a few deleted scenes, a few pieces of advice from the characters, and a few of the Zoo-Wee Mama cartoons. On a side note, the guy from the future has a hat almost just like mine. It's missing a tier, however.

Since I don't have the Blu-ray, or for that matter the retail DVD (I only have a DVD-R copy of the movie) I can't really compare the two releases. The Blu-ray does come with the DVD, as well as a digital copy. It also costs quite a bit more on

The Verdict

Kids just entering middle-school and who are worried about not fitting in will probably really relate to the kids seen in Diary of a Wimpy Kid. This movie also almost works well enough to entertain general audiences. Let's face it, if you can say, "Doesn't quite entertain adults" you are essentially "Praising it with faint damnation." On the other hand, the DVD and the Blu-ray don't offer a whole lot to lift the value from rental to purchase, nor does the Blu-ray come across as the better deal than the DVD.

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Filed under: Video Review, Diary of a Wimpy Kid