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Blu-ray Review: Howlingly Derivative ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days’

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CHICAGO – Most former kids can agree that junior high is pure hell. It’s the dividing line between the carefree bliss of elementary school and the budding maturity of high school. Suddenly kids are faced with a decision: either assert their dominance over the weakest of their peers or risk joining them. Become a bully or be bullied. Neither option is enticing.

Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” book series connected with young readers who related to its awkward protagonist, Greg Heffley, whose misadventures were conveyed through a cheerful amalgamation of journal entries, illustrations and comics. The film adaptations, however, have been more interested in capturing Kinney’s broadly comic sensibility rather than his nuggets of truth. Instead of illuminating the humanity within Kinney’s caricatures, the films exploit their quirks in nauseatingly cynical fashion.

HollywoodChicago.com Blu-ray Rating: 1.5/5.0
Blu-ray Rating: 1.5/5.0

What laughs are there to be gleaned from a fat kid who acts like every fat sidekick ever designed to make the skinny lead appear cooler by contrast? Or the nerd with oversized glasses whose flared nostrils are more cavernous than his gaping mouth? Or the Indian kid who’s funny because…well, he has an Indian accent? Hilarious! These are such offensively shallow stereotypes that they encourage bullying more than anything. They enforce the heartless categories that sensitive kids find themselves wedged within during the three-year prison sentence of junior high. The best thing that can be said about “Dog Days,” the third installment in the “Wimpy Kid” movie franchise, is that it devotes the majority of its screen time elsewhere. With Greg precariously perched in the summer months between seventh and eighth grade, the script by Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky (of “Simpsons” and Wes Anderson fame) centers on the boy’s uneasy relationship with his father (Steve Zahn), a Civil War reenactor enraged by his son’s habit of playing video games—even on the first day of summer. Zahn’s reliably watchable goofiness sporadically enlivens a plot so painfully derivative, it could’ve been easily recycled from any number of “Leave it to Beaver” episodes, not to mention every “Nickelodeon” program ever made.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days was released on Blu-ray and DVD on December 18th, 2012.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days was released on Blu-ray and DVD on December 18th, 2012.
Photo credit: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

The highlight of the Blu-ray extras for “Dog Days” is a brief interview with Kinney, who recalls his early failure at achieving his dream of becoming a newspaper cartoonist. Perhaps it was Kinney’s childhood love of comics that inspired one of the film’s few charming moments, as Greg and his father bond over their shared hatred of “Li’l Cutie,” an archaic “Family Circus”-style strip that somehow managed to remain in the paper long after it stopped being funny. “That’s not even a joke!” Greg groans after reading the comic’s latest non-punchline, yet the irony here is that the film’s humor is no more inspired than “Li’l Cutie.” Consider the very first set-piece where Greg visits a public pool and is disgusted by the sight of naked men showering. His disgust is only heightened after he realizes that his little brother has—you guessed it—peed in the pool. That’s not even a joke!

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” is presented in 1080p High Definition (with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio), accompanied by English, French and Spanish audio tracks and is available in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack. Special features include deleted scenes, a gag reel, a bonus animated short (clocking in under 3 minutes), and an audio commentary track with director David Bowers, whose crowning achievement remains “Flushed Away.”

‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days’ is released by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and stars Zachary Gordon, Steve Zahn, Robert Capron, Devon Bostick, Rachael Harris, Peyton List, Grayson Russell, Karan Brar and Laine MacNeil. It was written by Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky and directed by David Bowers. It was released on December 18th, 2012. It is rated PG.

HollywoodChicago.com staff writer Matt Fagerholm

Staff Writer

Veronica H.'s picture

Great, Fun, Relatable Movie - Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dog Days!

**** I think this staff writer Matt Fagerholm is off his rocket in his review of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dog Days. I guess it’s easier for these stupid and biased reviewers to trash Family movies than the majority of the Hollywood garbage staring “A” lister actors and directors. I didn’t read any reviewer downgrading Adam Sandlers “Grown Ups” movie for being totally predictable including-when all the main characters were peeing in the public pool. In that movie it was original and funny, but in this movie it wasn’t? There’s a real double standard for these reviewers when it comes to kids and family movies…and it’s disgraceful. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dog Days, along with the other 2 Wimpy Kid movies are just good, laugh out loud - relatable entertainment which everyone I have talked to has enjoyed.

I took my kids to see DWK, Dog Days in August when it opened and we all loved it! It follows Jeff Kinney’s books to a “T” and makes the characters even more enjoyable seeing them in real life. The main character, Greg Heffley - played wonderfully by kid actor, Zachary Gordon was believable and very memorable. He played out the horrors of a public pool, dealing with older brothers, and his relationship with his dad in uncompromising sensitivity. The acting from the rest of the cast was great as well.

The whole series has been a delight and when the latest Dog Days came out on DVD our family had no hesitation adding it to our movie collection.

If you want to watch a fun, entertaining, and wholesome memorable movies - definitely check out the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series…you won’t be disappointed.

Jason F.'s picture

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dog Days....**** 4/5 Stars - Fun Movie

Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dog Days is simply a fun and entertaining movie. My kids read all the books and loved all the movies. I give the movie a 4 out of 5 stars.

I have to agree with Veronica H. in that this reviewer is really so far “off base” it’s frightening! The movies that have been made from the Jeff Kinney Wimpy Kid series are really good and very entertaining. Even Jeff Kinney says the movies have really brought his stick figures to life…and that’s coming from the author, so it shows that this reviewer knows nothing about the stories or movies.

Highly recommended for an enjoyable family film. A definite “must see” if you like to laugh out loud and enjoy a good wholesome memorable family film!

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