PG for kids getting picked on. Also, one of the kids breaks his arm, which can be gross if you really think about it. I mean, it's pretty innocent. The protagonist isn't great. There's some disobeying of parents that is kind of encouraged. But the movie doesn't really have anything that could be considered morally reprehensible. PG
DIRECTOR: Swinton O. Scott
It's not for me. I just need to repeat that. It's not for me, it's not for me, it's just not for me. I know that I write about everything that is technically a film, but it is so hard to write about stuff like this. I would like to say that I just discovered that this movie was only 58 minutes. I mean, I don't feel that obliged to write a whole long essay for a movie that is only 58 minutes. For sure, I thought this movie was at least an hour-and-a-half. I had to confirm on multiple websites that it was only 58 minutes. Like, how? How is this movie only 58 minutes? Maybe the movie was rougher than I thought because I have the theory that anything 72 and under gets points for shortness.
When I showed my film class this trailer, thinking they'd lose their collective minds, I was met with violent disappointment. They instantly thought that this was a betrayal to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid that they all knew and loved. Being on the outside of a fandom is a weird thing. You know that there's passion behind the fandom, but it's not your thing. As a kid, I held no allegiance to Transformers or Masters of the Universe, so I view those franchises as "other." But seeing that trailer, I got the vibe that this movie would be far closer to the books than the live action films. After all, these were 3D renderings of Jeff Kinney's drawings, so how could it go wrong? (I mean, I don't want to evoke South Park 64, but that's a good way to derail my train of thought.)
But then the opening credits came up and I saw that Jeff Kinney himself wrote this script. I imagine that the fine folks at Disney+ thought that they had two target markets for an animated film of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: kids like my kid (who is 7 and just discovering Diary of a Wimpy Kid) and high schoolers, who viewed Diary of a Wimpy Kid as the first first real piece of nostalgia that they would get. But high schoolers are very specific viewing subgroup. Like hardcore nerds, as seen with the JJ Abrams Star Wars and Star Trek, high schoolers see new attempts to revitalize an old franchise as an offense. Myself, I really like the new Star Wars and Star Trek stuff, even if it is not the original thing. So I came back at them with this "Jeff Kinney" stuff. Maybe knowing that this might actually be the authentic intended version of their childhood book series might turn some heads. It didn't. Mind you, these are the same kids who are adamant that black-and-white films will forever be boring, even if black-and-white was an active choice.
I had a rough middle school experience, but I didn't know that there was such a push to stress how rough middle school was. (In all earnestness, grade school was way worse, but whatever.) Perhaps there is a need to make middle school more important than it is. After all, middle school kids feel older, despite the fact that they are aggressively children. High schoolers want stories about adults and elementary school students want tales about middle school. Ignoring this need seems a bit dismissive on my part, but I just never really understood the obsession with middle school. If anything, this seemed to be the most forgettable time in my life. It's this idea behind romanticizing these small tales. Part of it comes from the confusion of puberty. Kinney touches on that, juxtaposing the scrawny, amorphous design of Greg to those kids who are actively shaving. But movies like Diary of a Wimpy Kid are extensions (albeit pale extensions) of the bildungsroman tales of the '80s. If The Goonies was more family friendly, it might have more in common with Wimpy Kid than I care to admit.
But that also kind of bums me out. Look, I love that my kid loved the movie and I adore the fact that he actively gets obsessed over the books. That's absolutely rad and I celebrate the heck out of that. But there's something aggressively corporate about these stories. Instead of writing about nostalgia, these stories give me the vibe of pandering. We know that Kinney must sleep on a mountain of money. Stuff like "The Cheese Touch" doesn't necessarily feel universal, but rather fodder for pre-teen humor. Heck, I can't imagine a time when I said "cheese" more, thinking it was hilarious, than in middle school (a time, I've established, I have little memory of). While I like the dynamic between Greg and Rowley, especially when they touch on themes of growing out of each other, there's nothing really earnest going on there. I don't feel like Kinney is pulling from something real. Instead, they act as plot devices and comedy. Greg is desperate for any kind of healthy attention. He goes to a new school, which terrifies him. He eventually is infected with the cheese touch. Everything he does makes him feel like he's on the outside.
But instead, Greg simply becomes another Charlie Brown. As much as his life is a bit of a bummer, none of it really affects him on the grand scale. I think talking about the fear of growing up is fundamentally important. But I can't imagine someone who would be Greg's avatar in reality would take it on the chin like Greg does. There's no real sadness. Bullying is kind of just a thing. Adults are stupid and everyone is dumb. Where is the moment where real catharsis happens. Yeah, Greg learns to appreciate Rowley way more than he did previously, but I don't know if that's enough of a move to justify a film...
...even if it is only 58 minutes.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.