There’s something about sequels that really grates on me. With the exception of Harry Potter and Indiana Jones, I find that film franchises rarely get the second one right. And so the story goes with the latest film adaptation of Jeff Kinney’s popular book series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
The original film was a success at the box office last year, unearthing tween talent Chloë Grace Moretz. However, this time around does not offer the same pleasant surprise, but rather the expected second-rate offering to be packaged as a school holiday’s special.
The sequel focuses on the trials and tribulations of Greg Heffley’s (Zachary Gordon) journey into adolescence. The film picks up where it left off with Greg as he enters the seventh grade – he has the optimistic idea that his second year of middle school will see him transformed into ‘Mr. Cool’, a notion that is quickly quashed by his older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick).
As the middle child, Greg is stuck keeping out of rebellious Rodrick’s way and avoiding his tattler baby brother Manny (Owen and Connor Fielding). Parents Frank and Susan (Steve Zahn and Rachael Harris) are unimpressed with the constant conflict between the boys, and in an attempt to stop the squabbles, super-mum Susan uses the oldest trick in the book – bribery. Her system works a little something like this: the brothers spend ‘quality-time’ together and are then rewarded with ‘Mum Bucks’ (essentially play money that can be cashed in for the real thing) for the time they spend together not fighting. As a result Rodrick uses Greg to scam money off his naïve parents while our wimpy kid is left feeling even more helpless than before.
The film tends to mostly focus on the battle between Greg and his older brother, who spends most of his time trying to find ways to torture him. But this movie’s major setback revolves around the plot, which is constructed as a series of frequent tangents. At first it appears to be centred on the tumultuous relationship between Rodrick and Greg. Then it switches to Greg trying to win over new-girl, the predictably popular Holly (Peyton List). And just when you think it’s going to turn into a pre-teen romance, the storyline swiftly moves on to the manipulation of Greg’s best friend Rowley (Robert Capron) into keeping secrets from their parents and turning themselves into YouTube sensations.
Though the storyline is not difficult to understand, it is frustrating having to jump from one idea to the next with no real sense of connection. The result of the constant chopping and changing is a series of sub-par skits that are loosely held together by a common denominator.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 had the potential to be a smart and funny exploration of adolescence. Instead the directors have chosen to sparingly use the animation from the book that was heavily featured in the first film. They have gone for cheap laughs with a constant stream of slap-stick ‘comedy’, with fart jokes to top it all off. I’ll be honest and say that I did not go into this film with high expectations but I did expect a few funny moments. What I got did not meet even my lowest expectations.
The shining star out of this so-so film was Devon Bostick as Rodrick. Although his performance wasn’t completely enthralling, it did add some teenage wit to the mix. I can see how a younger crowd could enjoy this film, but honestly I think they would be better off spending their money on an animation film or outside the cinemas on the crane machines.
Penny Evangelou is a final-year Bachelor of Journalism student who is passionate about food, fashion and beauty writing. She is also a member of the 2011 upstart editorial team.