Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days
Rated PG for some rude humor. 1 hour, 34 minutes.
Publication date: Publication Date Aug. 3, 2012
Review by Peter Canavese
Like "The Dark Knight Rises," "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days" reunites the core cast of previous entries and maintains a tonal consistency. Here again is Everyboy -- and pathological liar -- Greg (Zachary Gordon), his parents (Steve Zahn and Rachael Harris), his punky older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick) and blithering younger brother Manny (Connor & Owen Fielding), and Greg's pudgy, loyal-to-a-fault best friend Rowley Jefferson (Robert Capron).
Fear not, "Wimpy Kid" fans: Greg's crush Holly Hills (Peyton List), nemesis Patty Ferrell (Laine MacNeil), and classmates Fregley (Grayson Russell) and Chirag (Karan Brar) also appear in this summer-themed adventure that picks up where "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules" left off, at the end of Greg's seventh-grade year. This valedictory movie derives from Jeff Kinney's illustrated novels "The Last Straw" and "Dog Days," adapted by husband-and-wife screenwriters Maya Forbes ("Monsters vs. Aliens") and Wallace Wolodarsky ("The Simpsons").
As for the tone, it's strictly middle-school slapstick -- like a sequence in which a mishap causes Greg to skinny-dip at the country club -- and middle-class worries, like how to dodge parental expectations and play video games instead. Even for an episodic kiddie farce, "Dog Days" seems overly familiar in its comic premises (oh no! peeing in the municipal pool!) and conflicts ("Me and my dad have absolutely nothing in common"). But it'll all be new to its intended audience, who are likely to lap it up as happily as the Heffleys' new mutt, Sweetie, at his water dish.
Like its predecessors, "Dog Days" offers a mostly shapeless plot, as Greg gets into varieties of trouble, shooting himself in the foot when it comes to his friendship, courtship and family life. The main thread involves Greg lying about having a job at the Plainview Heights Country Club so he can spend time around Holly; as a result, dedicated gamer Greg realizes the outdoors aren't so bad after all.
And so "Dog Days" gently imparts a lesson or two, about taking responsibility for and learning from mistakes (though Greg never seems to). Also, this entry wisely amplifies the role of the lovably goofy Zahn, as Greg and his dad come to terms. But the oddest thing about the movie isn't the immediate realization that Gordon's voice has irrevocably changed; it's that this kid-lit adaptation hardcore disses reading.