Published Mar 18, 2011It's a difficult time for filmmakers trying to make quality movies under the family genre. While Miley Cyrus and her colleagues at the Disney channel regularly churn out sub-par fare that gets relegated to the "TV movie" category, you can thank Pixar for making just about any children's filmmaker quiver with dread and jealousy.
Last year, kids (and their parents) were treated to the film adaptation of Jeff Kinney's young adult novel, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, following the Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) through the trials and tribulations of sixth grade. I confess that I both read and watched Diary of a Wimpy Kid (on the recommendation of an 11-year-old cousin; I go to great lengths to avoid Hannah Montana). The first instalment was filled with pre-pubescent angst and charming hilarity. What was this, fun? How frivolous!
The second instalment follows Greg in his continuing efforts to survive middle school at the start of seventh grade. Greg's world is everything that the oversexed teens of Skins and bad teen TV dramas are not: roller skate rinks exist, church congregations have high attendance, "holy moly" is a choice expletive and dream girls are wholesome, blue-eyed blondes.
If it wasn't for the MacBooks, texting and digital cameras, one could easily confuse this with a film set in the '50s. In an attempt to connect Greg with high school-aged brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick), Greg's mother (Rachel Harris) bribes them with "mom dollars" to encourage them to spend time together. These attempts fail and both are subsequently grounded and left home alone one weekend.
What follows is a PG-rated house party, the evidence of which the brothers cover up. This secret brings them closer together, but, predictably, this doesn't stay a secret for long. And so the constant push-pull of their fraternal bond is the thread that ties the story together.
Rodrick Rules has problems with pacing and is occasionally terribly predictable. Yet the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series subverts certain truisms of family-friendly coming-of-age films. Greg is a thoroughly flawed individual; he's manipulative, mean, desperate for popularity and has the sarcasm of a leaner, cleaner, younger Holden Caulfield.
Those with siblings will easily identify with the moments between Greg and Roderick: the torture and the giggles, the exhilarating highs and the maddening lows that ultimately elevate this film, which, if you look close enough, possesses rare insight and beauty. (Fox)