Middle of the Road
When I started secondary school here in the UK Sue Townsend had just published "The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾" the intellectual thoughts and issues of a teenager. Now I don't know whether Jeff Kinney had read any of the numerous Adrian Mole books when he wrote "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" but it could easily be inspired by Townsend's character as we have young Greg Heffley writing his diary which tells us all about his first year in middle school. But in the same way that Adrian Mole appealed to a generation so does it seem with "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" especially when it comes to the movie based on Kinney's story because whilst an entertaining idea the humour is understandably aimed at a young audience. What that means it that "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" for me was ok but nothing special but I am sure younger audiences love it.
As Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) sets about starting middle school he starts writing a diary of events, although to him it is a journal. But Greg doesn't really get middle school and his first year is a real struggle as every thing he does to try and be popular backfires and on top of being beaten up by a girl betrays his best friend Rowley (Robert Capron). And if school wasn't bad enough there is his home life to contend with from his older brother Roderick (Devon Bostick) making his like a misery to his little brother sitting on the potty whilst eating breakfast.
In the same way that I liked "Adrian Mole" I like the concept behind "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" because as we all know a first year at a new school always comes with expectations and fears. And looking back I can think of numerous funny things from my first year at what in the UK was called junior school, from acting all grown up to trying to be popular and fitting in. But the thing about "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" is that whilst it touches on those elements far too often it just went for kid movie gags.
That is a shame because when we get Greg's inner thoughts about trying to fit in and Rowley holding him back it is genuinely funny and clever but then you get some daft joke about being chased on Halloween. It makes it a very mixed bag one which I am sure will amuse younger audiences but left me feeling like I had seen much of it before. And to be honest the expected moral lesson which Greg learns by the end of the year ends up feeling like an after thought, suddenly tagged on because it was expected rather than needed.
The thing which works for "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" is the casting and both Zachary Gordon as Greg and Robert Capron as Rowley do a decent enough job as young friends. But beyond these two the rest of the cast is forgettable with maybe the exception of Steve Zahn who as Greg's father at least is a little bit amusing for grown ups.
What this all boils down to is that "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" probably is really good for its target audience but for older generations it ends up feeling a bit too typical, relying on generic young child gags than clever humour about the trials and tribulations of school.