New in Theaters: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

What Parents Need to Know:

Common Sense Media says this movie is age appropriate for 9 and older. Parents need to know that this adaptation of Jeff Kinney's best-selling Diary of a Wimpy Kid books is full of tween-friendly jokes and mischief. There are no full-blown swear words, but the dialogue includes a lot of insults like "moron," "idiot," "tool," "stupid" and the like, as well as the standard substitute for stronger words, "freakin'." Parents sensitive to scatological humor, beware! There are several jokes about boogers and farts, a few shots featuring kids on toilets (the middle-school boysroom has no doors on its stalls), and in one scene, the protagonist accidentally pees on his brother. While there's no frightening violence, there is a running theme about three older bullies who menace the main characters, and there's a girl who beats up a boy in front of the entire school. A rebellious seeming teen brother wears eyeliner, is in a garage band, and is caught with a naughty magazine (the cover only shows a woman in a bikini). Families Can Talk About:
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  • Families can talk about Greg's hilarious single-minded quest to be deemed "popular" in middle school. How does Greg's attitude differ from Rowley's and Angie's? How accurate a reflection of middle-school life is this story? Kids: Have you ever been bullied, either in person or online?
  • What does Greg's mom mean when she says: "It's our choices that make us who we are"? How did Greg follow her advice?
  • Was Rowley justified in ending his friendship with Greg? Kids: what would you have done?
  • Fans of the books: How does the movie compare? Which characters were different or new? Did you like the changes?
What's the Story
Based on the outrageously popular books by Jeff Kinney, DIARY OF A WIMPY KID follows sixth grader Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) as he attempts to navigate the middle-school social order with his chubby, sweet best friend Rowley (Robert Capron). After looking at his rocker older brother's old yearbook, Greg decides the key to climbing the popularity ladder is to join various after-school clubs and associations and somehow settles on safety patrol with Rowley. Despite warnings from Angie (Chloe Grace Moretz), a precociously mature 7th grader, Greg continues to plot and scheme to make himself more well-liked, but in the process starts pushing Rowley to change the way he dresses, talks, and acts to fit in better. Ultimately, Greg endangers his one true friendship for selfish reasons, while Rowley surprisingly grows more popular by just being himself.

Is It Any Good?
If you can stomach boy-world jokes about bodily functions and middle-school anxiety, this adaptation is deliciously age appropriate and wittily executed. Unlike many other movies featuring child actors, none of this ensemble (with the possible exception of Moretz) look plucked from the world of juvenile modeling. They do look like the sort of wimpy, uncool kids the more physically developed, socially adept middle-schoolers have always and will always push to the side. Gordon is a riot as the determined but clueless Greg, but as his BFF Rowley, Capron is definitely the scene stealer of the movie, imbuing his chunky, sunny character with an adorable sense of self. The Heffley parents, played by veteran comedic actors Steve Zahn and Rachael Harris are forgettable, as this is one of those rare movies where adults are rather unnecessary.

The running gag in the movie is utterly brilliant in its simplicity. There's a moldy, way-past-rotten slice of cheese that nobody, even the school janitor, bothered to throw away. As time passed, any student who even accidentally touched the cheese was branded with the "cheese touch," a malady infinitely worse than the cooties. There are various close-ups of the cheese as it ages throughout the school year, and it's obvious something truly awful is going to happen with the cheese. Of course, the "cheese touch" is just a stand-in for all of the myriad artificial reasons young adolescents alienate each other during those horrifying years we call middle school.

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This review of Diary of a Wimpy Kid was written by Sandie Angulo Chen