Zachary Gordon, right, and Robert Capron in a scene from 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days.' / Diyah Pera/20th Century Fox
‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days’
Star rating:★ ★ ½
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Star rating:★ ★ ½
Something is up with these “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” movies.
Either they’re getting better as they go along or they’re wearing me down. Either way, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days,” the third in the series of movies based on the popular books by Jeff Kinney, is the best of the lot. It’s not great, but the mean-spiritedness that permeated the first film and stuck around a bit for the second is mostly gone. David Bowers, who directed the second movie, returns for this one, as well.
There are still problems -- namely that Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon, looking like he’s about to start shaving) remains just about the dumbest, most self-centered kid who ever went to junior high -- but there are some improvements, as well.
Chief among these is more screen time for Steve Zahn, who plays Greg’s hapless father, Frank. Zahn, like Rachael Harris, who plays Greg’s mom Susan, is a gifted comic performer who has gone largely wasted in these movies. Zahn gets to do a lot more this time around; maybe the fourth film, if there is one, will be Harris’ time to shine.
The movie begins with the end of the school year. Greg has big plans for summer -- to play video games night and day and, if things go his way, maybe spend whatever time is left with classmate Holly Hills (Peyton List). An attempt to get her phone number goes awry, but when his chubby friend Rowley (Robert Capron) invites him for a day at the country club, Greg discovers to his delight that Holly is also a member.
Things don’t work out as smoothly as all that, naturally. Greg has many obstacles to overcome -- namely his moronic older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick), who is still dumb as a rock but has at least had some of the sadistic edges of the previous two movies sanded off of him. In the second film, he actually seemed like a dangerous psychopath. Here’s he’s more your garden-variety lunatic, which is a major step forward.
Like many comedies -- including great ones, like “Animal House” and “Caddyshack” -- “Dog Days” consists more of a series of unrelated skits than an actual linear story. (Don’t be mistaken: “Dog Days” is not great.) Greg and Rowley go to the boardwalk and get in trouble, Greg sneaks Rodrick into the country club (Greg lies to his father and tells him he got a job there), Greg and Rowley play tennis with Holly and the evil Patty Farrell (Laine MacNeil).
Some of these scenes are pretty funny -- Rowley and his oddball family in particular are good for a few laughs. And there are some touching moments between Greg and his father, though my favorite bonding moment between them is their shared dislike for an old-fashioned cartoon they groan about every morning in the newspaper. (Also: They still read newspapers!)
There are better movies aimed at kids out there, and there are worse. It’s a good sign for this franchise that “Dog Days” is another step in the right direction, even if there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Something is up with these 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' movies. Either they're getting better as they go along or they're wearing me down. Either way, 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days,' the third in the
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