Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days – Movie Review

Greg Heffley and company are back in the third Wimpy Kid movie! As much as I loved the first two – Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules – it was hard for me get into this one 100%. It almost felt as if there was something missing or the timing was off. It definitely was not as solid as the previous two, which was definitely a let down.

This time out, Greg (Zachary Gordon) and his father (Steve Zahn) are at the forefront of the story as the snarky young Heffley tries his best to avoid doing anything outdoorsy with his dad. Zahn really brings his comic A-game here, providing some of the best moments in the film, and providing a moral center to the story. This is definitely a father-son story, but it also tries to interject some undercurrent of a love story between Greg and Holly Hills (Peyton List) as the sub-plot.

Zachary Gordon is growing up. We’ve watched him as Greg Heffley since 2010, and this appears to be the last film in the Wimpy Kid series. While Greg came across as a kid-friendly Larry David from Curb Your Enthusiasm in the first two films, Greg seems to be missing his edge this time around.

While he still has his own interests in mind in spite of those around him, Greg’s jerkiness and selfishness are clearly absent here. Those were the things that made him such an interesting character to watch in the first two flicks, but here he just seems to be going through the motions.

The supporting cast was underutilized this time around as well. Greg, Frank, and Rodrick Heffley are the main focus of the film, while Fregley (Grayson Russell), Patty (Laine MacNeil), Chirag (Karan Brar), and even the Heffley mom Susan (Rachel Harris) rarely pop up. It could be due to the nature of the film taking place during the summer, but without these tertiary characters the film lacks variety.

Rodrick (Devon Bostick) shines and genuinely seems to embrace his role as the obnoxious older brother to Greg Heffley. He really carries the bulk of physical comedy and a lot of the film’s energy is delivered through him. Even when Greg is up to some crazy scheme, there’s a static feeling present. When Rodrick pops up on screen there’s an immediate jolt of excitement.

Rowley Jefferson (Robert Capron) once again plays the put-upon friend and we get a little more insight into his family life, which is a little disturbing. Watching Greg interact with the Jeffersons (his dad gets dialogue this time!) is fun and awkward to watch.

All three movies are episodic in nature primarily due to the structure of the books. The first two utilized this structure to create strong character not plot-driven stories. Dog Days feels as if it’s trying too hard to retrofit a solid storyline into the episodic structure. While there are many episodic elements at play, the main story almost tries too hard to get its point across (at one point we are handed what the main theme of the film is pretty explicitly).

Gross-out gags and slapstick abound in this third film, and there are a few gross-out gags that were kind of uncomfortable to watch. Moments like that in an American Pie movie are fine, but in a family film they were a bit disconcerting. Along these lines…

While I understand that these are family-oriented films, I couldn’t help but wonder how this particular entry in the series would have played were it rated PG-13. There were several moments throughout the film that felt as if the set-up to a big joke was never given its proper pay-off, almost as if the punch lines ended up on the cutting room floor. When you watch the movie, pay close attention to various sequences where quick edits send us to another scene without a big laugh at the end. Odd.

Don’t get me wrong, there are several funny and amusing moments throughout the film, but overall a lot of it felt forced. Perhaps it was the attempt to combine the third and fourth books in the series – Dog Days and The Last Straw – into one cohesive film that resulted in this entry’s lack of momentum.

While I love the books and love the film series, Dog Days wasn’t the laugh-out-loud movie I was expecting. It had a lot of expectations to fulfill, and while it is entertaining, it’s not as solid as the first two. If you’re a fan of the books and the movies, I recommend it. If you have gives it’s a great escape from the summer heat. So go, watch, and let me know what you think.

My scores for all three (even though we don’t give grades on this site):

Diary of a Wimpy Kid – A

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules – A

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days – B

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days opens Friday, August 03, 2012!

Which Wimpy Kid character is your favorite? Which movie is your favorite? Leave a comment and let us know!