I struggled with this film. It’s what I like to call a fence-sitter. It’s not abnormally good, but it’s not distinctly terrible. I went back and forth and back and forth trying to decide whether or not to recommend it. The film commits a cinematic sin by having the main character tell us at the beginning: “Who wants to see a movie about a kid stuck in middle school with a bunch of morons?” Exactly. Who wants to see that?
Let me start with the bad and work my way up to the good:
When will there ever be a family oriented film where the parents aren’t complete and total idiots? Why this cliche? Parents aren’t that stupid. Take the first scene of the film for instance(I’m not sure if I should bother telling you that there are spoilers): Greg Heffley(Zachary Gordon) is an eleven year old boy about to start his first day of middle school. His annoyingly arrogant brother, Rodrick(Devon Bostick), wakes him up telling him that he’s late and that their mother(Rachael Harris) is extremely angry with him. In horror, Greg begins throwing on clothes and trying to eat breakfast, making as much noise as humanly possible. Greg’s father(Steve Zahn) comes down and yells at Greg for making all the noise and it is then revealed to us that Greg’s brother was merely making a joke and it’s actually 3 O’Clock in the morning a week before Greg’s first day of school. Alright, now even if I were to buy the fact that Greg may not have bothered looking outside at the darkness at all, or be gullable enough to believe his brother when he knew school didn’t start for another week, I’m utterly bewildered by his moronic parents who, instead of listening to Greg saying that his brother fooled him, punish him instead. What kind of parents would do this? First of all, if an eleven year old is eagerly getting ready for school, you know that something fishy is going on, and if they said that their brother told them they were late for school, the parents would believe the kid and go punish the brother. Even if they didn’t believe the kid, they still wouldn’t punish him for mistakingly getting ready for school too early because he thought he was late.
Among the other horrible things wrong with this movie include the bugar jokes, the fart jokes, the annoying high school kids who beat up the elementary school kids(does this really happen? I see it in movies all the time, and I doubt it ever really happens).
Now for the good: These kids are fantastic actors who are so eager and willing to put themselves out on a limb and play these parts. I enjoyed watching Zachary Gordon and Robert Capron – who plays Greg’s best friend, Rowley – so much that I grew to love their characters. Another thing I love about this movie is the way Greg tries so hard to be popular and never is, yet Rowley is just himself, and everybody loves him. That is the way it is in real life. Finally! A movie ready to show that! It’s fun to see these two characters try to help each other, grow apart from each other, fight with one another, and then realize that they’re just jeapordizing their friendship and become friends again. These kids play their parts with such commitment, and that’s refreshing.
Now, since we’re in good-ol’ SLC, it’s no surprise that this movie will do exceedingly well in this area, but I should give a slight warning that the movie touches on some adult humor, including a scene in which the two young boys find an older kid’s pornographic magazine, and I know some Salt Lake City-ans won’t approve of that for their kids. The movie has also been playing to packed-housing and was number 2 on the box-office best seller list, failing only to ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ and if I were to recommend one over the other, it would be this one. Buy tickets by going to www.fandango.com/salt-lake-city