This is the third movie based on the wildly popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. With each movie, the franchise becomes better at milking the formula that causes 4th graders to cringe with delight. The story is always the same: Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) suffers through the traumas and indignities of a young boy growing up. Tormented by his older brother, hounded by his younger brother, misunderstood by his parents and teachers, and haunted by Holly ( Peyton List), the unattainable pretty girl in his class, Greg muddles through one humiliating mishap after another, accompanied by his well-intentioned best friend Rowley (Robert Capron).
This episode, which is based on the fourth book in the Wimpy Kid series, begins at the close of the school year. The last day is of course excruciating (Greg’s father accidentally gave the school a humiliating baby picture of Greg for the yearbook) but Greg is looking forward to a long and happy summer of computer games and time with Holly. Alas, it is not to be. Greg’s father insists that Greg get out of the house and do something worthwhile. From this premise follows a summer full of catastrophes. Greg’s parents think he might become more responsible if he takes care of a dog. Then they try signing him up to learn outdoorsmanship with Wilderness Troop 133. They consider enrolling him at a disciplinary prep school for irresponsible children. Finally, Greg’s parents leave him alone when he tells them that he has found a summer job. In reality, Greg has no job; he spends the summer sneaking into a country club where he tries to impress Holly. This lie will not end well for Greg, yet like all of the Wimpy Kid movies, everything ends on a warm and upbeat note.
Greg describes his baby brother’s security blanket as “a couple of pieces of yarn held together by raisins and boogers.” One could describe the plot of this movie the same way. There is very little plot to hold together a string of contrived and embarrassing anecdotes. When Greg jumps off the high dive board in front of everyone at the country club, his swim trunks improbably catch on the diving board and come off. He is trapped in the pool naked until an even more embarrassing alternative presents itself: Greg slips on a girl’s bathing suit labeled “princess” across the butt, and hurries out of the pool while people laugh at him and call him “loser.” These episodes are all painful but consistent with the brand of Wimpy Kids, the film always turns away just before the situation becomes truly awful.
The children in the theater all seemed to enjoy being grossed out by Greg’s misadventures. They simultaneously laughed out loud and yelled “Eeewwwwwww.” But those who are old enough to have come to terms with normal bodily functions may be less intrigued.
Parents should know that this film includes potty humor and gross-out material and schoolyard insult language.
Family discussion: Why does Greg’s dad say he is not angry at Greg for lying about his job? Who is a better Wilderness Scout leader, Greg’s Dad or Mr. Warren?
If you like this, try: “Alice Upside-Down” and the Wimpy Kid books — and try keeping a journal!