When all is said and done, you really won’t miss much with “Diary of the Wimpy Kid.” It’s all a fairly forgettable and polarizing comedy that’s strictly targeted to the preteen boys of the audience, all of whom are convinced this is how middle school is and will be like. Unless you’re an absolutely die hard fan of Chloe Moretz or Steve Zahn, you really should not rush to see “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” in spite of the fact that it’s not at all the excruciating experience the trailers would have you believe. There is really some interesting bits and storytelling to be had here with some honest explorations in to these young characters.
To get it out of the way, taking a break from making movie history in 2010 with “Kick Ass” and “Let Me In” (she’s on her way, mark my words), Chloe Moretz stars alongside some of her own in a rather fascinating performance that’s very subdued and underplayed in favor of the actual stars. Here is she meant to add some mystique as a person who has embraced her identity and personality in a world of kids looking for theirs. She doesn’t do much except stand back and guide our characters Rowley and Greg along and when the film reaches its closer, she’s a very enigmatic presence who is a summary of the pointlessness of social cliques often trying to make the two male characters of the piece also realize that it’s perfectly fine to be who you are, no matter what anyone says about you.
Moretz tends to pop out of any movie she’s in, so it’s tough for director Thor Freudenthal to keep her a mere supporting player. Zahn is also memorable as character Greg’s well meaning dad who tries to help Greg endure middle school. As for the characters themselves, there is some entertaining material here while Greg and his friend Rowley try to adjust to their new middle school and what it ends up doing to the boys as they find new interests and begin to grow apart. Greg is intent on fitting in as much as possible at the behest of his older brother, while Rowley embraces his quirks and unabashed affection, which puts him often at risk of being tormented. What the story inevitably explores is Greg’s deep seated cruelty toward his friend Rowley as Rowley accidentally finds himself becoming popular and eventually accepted by the mass of his student body while Greg watches unable to comprehend why.
The twist is pretty surprising as Rowley begins to see that he is proud of his own personality and that Greg really isn’t his friend at all leading to some interesting explorations in protagonist Greg and his observation of other students one of whom is Rowley, a boy incapable of feeling shame for his pride in unusual fashion, outgoing nature, and love for his mother that leads in to a cute dance scene at a mother-son dance. There are plenty of plot segments that could have been taken down in favor of story that would add to character progress. The Halloween segment where trick or treating with Greg and Rowley leads to a confrontation with bullies is one humongous bit of blatant padding for time and had no real relevance to the overall narrative of the film beyond the obviously goofy surprise ending that really didn’t do much to make the characters interesting aside from redeeming a character.
Their running and hiding in a house and revenge with garden tools were entertaining but meandered from the point of the story, and I’m still not entirely sure what the entire point was in having us discover character Greg is a great singer only to have us not see a moment where he can exercise those vocals and use it as a bit of character redemption. “Diary” will be a polarizing film to many since it’s so strictly targeted to young boys in the mood for booger humor, and jokes about rotten food, so this differs from most of the family films from 2010 and won’t be an easy experience for patient parents since Freudenthal’s direction adds a hyperactive pacing and energy that makes it sometimes grating and irritating, especially when applied to the animated transitions and lack of real exploration of middle school issues. “Diary” will be a reasonably enjoyable time filler for the little boys in the audience in the market for booger and hygiene jokes, rotten food gags, and a look at a middle school we all wish we could have been apart of, but beyond that it’s a very forgettable and easily missed comedy, sadly threatening a sequel.