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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul – Movie Review

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy 20th Century Fox

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series of books and films have found a lot of popularity with children and it’s not difficult to see the appeal. Jeff Kinney has managed to capture the awkwardness of childhood and ridiculous levels to which they will go to accomplish their goals. We all look back and cringe at some of the things we did when we were younger. The announcement of a fourth film with an entirely new cast was surprising, but it is nice to see the Heffleys returning to the big screen. With Kinney now working on the screenplay himself and David Bowers returning to direct his third entry, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul keeps plenty of the humour that is characteristic of this franchise, but taken to new extreme levels.

Much like its source material, The Long Haul is rather episodic as the Heffleys find themselves in one predicament after another, not far removed from the Griswolds and their family vacations. Thankfully, this film takes a more family friendly approach, largely avoiding the distasteful and disgusting gags of the recent Vacation sequel from two years ago. Yet Kinney does not shy away from making sure the Heffleys’ trip is as agonizing as possible. One stay in a creaky hotel room could almost be turned into a horror film, had the lighting been dimmed a touch. The titular wimpy kid Greg and his punk-rock older brother Rodrick also take part in some rather self-serving actions, matching their personalities in the books. However, the comedy remains consistent throughout and the jokes are all in good fun.

By adding a subplot involving a video game convention and Greg’s idolization of a video game playing YouTuber, Kinney and Bowers also managed to throw in a bit of satire at the expense of modern technology. Those familiar with the rise of these sorts of personalities will gain some laughs out of the mockery here, though it never ventures into mean-spirited territory. The film’s message that technology shouldn’t be the only source of entertainment for young minds is an admirable one, especially since the sweetest relationship comes from toddler Manny and his prize pig. The one major fault in The Long Haul that puts it a tad below its predecessors is the excessive schmaltziness. It’s important to show that children need to respect their parents, but the other films managed to balance the sentiment a little better.

The new cast does a more than decent job of filling the roles of the instantly recognizable Wimpy Kid characters. Jason Drucker doesn’t depart heavily from Zachary Gordon’s Greg, though some may be slightly thrown off by Charlie Wright’s interpretation of Rodrick, who feels even more stupid than the original. Alicia Silverstone and Tom Everett Scott capture the dorky Heffley parents and manage to show the rising annoyance of the Murphy’s Law that keeps raining down on their family getaway. And yes, David Bowers continues the tradition of including original animated sequences taken directly from Kinney’s iconic stick-figure drawings in the books.

Watching Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, one does get the sense this might serve as a pilot to a television series. That seemed like a logical route after the release of the third film and the original actors outgrowing their roles. However, Bowers has lost none of the comedic timing he displayed in the previous Wimpy Kid films (after he successfully took over the series from the first movie’s director Thor Freudenthal). The books and film series revel in cringe humour, but it’s the sort children will laugh at as they recognise themselves in Greg and his antics.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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