Today, Hartford Books Examiner takes a look at the book-to-film treatment of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
Written and illustrated by Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is classified as “a novel in cartoons.” And while some will balk at the novelty of such an idea, it’s hard to argue with the book’s success. In addition to spawning four sequels and a movie tie-in, it has made Kinney a #1 New York Times bestselling author, and he was also named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time magazine in 2009.
The story is simple, really. Through diary—excuse me, journal—entries and corresponding cartoons, Greg Heffley recounts an awkward year spent in the hell that is better known as middle school. He tangles with bullies, divas, a merciless older brother and a moldy slice of Swiss cheese. He also suffers humiliation in all the likely places (the classroom, the locker room, the cafeteria…). But through it all, he still clings to the hope that his next harebrained scheme will catapult him to the top of the social echelon.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a funny book. But more than that, it has a lot of heart. A celebration of the horrors and humiliations that define our formative years but are mostly forgotten by adulthood, Kinney taps into fertile territory that will immediately resonate with readers. And the inclusion of illustrations is brilliant in that they not only serve to advance the story but also appeal to the demographic that may not like to read but who enjoy visual stimuli. Diary may very well be the gateway book that leads such kids to take a chance on something more, well, wordy in the future.
The film adaptation, which Kinney executive produced, is a lively telling that preserves the spirit of the book. While 3D technology may be boss at the box office, director Thor Freudenthal refreshingly chooses to opt for heart over heroics, presenting a live action comedy that also incorporates the cartoon imagery that is so vital to the book. While some of Greg’s exploits are exaggerated for the big screen, the integrity of the story is never compromised. Rather, these moments serve as a reminder that such rites of passage are often larger than life in the mind’s eye.
The burden is on a predominantly young cast to do the majority of the heavy lifting, and they don’t disappoint. Zachary Gordon is a perfectly likable Greg, practically exuding incredulity, and Robert Capron is scene-stealing as the hapless best friend, Rowley, who has a big heart, a big belly, and an even bigger mouth (from which any number of embarrassing things flow—like “Do you want to come over and play?”). Sure, there are the requisite snot and urine gags, but few films of recent memory have had equal appeal for the youngest member of the family to the oldest.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid is suitable not just for kids but for the child that lives within each of us…
Related articles from Hartford Books Examiner:
The Last Song: Book to film
Dear John: Book to film
Precious: Book to film
New Moon: Book to film
Julie & Julia: Book to film