Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Posted on August 4, 2010 at 6:00 am


“Middle school may be the dumbest idea ever,” says Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), and I think he speaks for all of us. If you ask most adults whether they would rather be audited by the IRS or go back through middle school again, they’d have a hard time making a choice. No one understands that better than Jeff Kinney, whose wildly popular series of Wimpy kid books are so true to the middle school experience — and so funny about it as well — that more than 11 million copies have been sold.

The reason that middle school is so agonizing is that it is the time when we first realize that we would really like to be cool at the same time we are struck with the horrifying realization that we have no idea how to get there. It is a time of agonizing self-examination, growing uncertainty about everything we thought we knew, diminishing willingness to rely on our parents, and the terrifying conviction that everyone else seems to have it figured out. It is the time of the great hormone divide, where boys who look like they are 10 share a classroom — and a locker room — with kids who look like they could be in college. It is a time when we rethink everything we thought we knew about who we are and what we want from our friends. So much suddenly seems GROSS and EMBARRASSING. Everything suddenly seems so disgusting we end up projecting all of those feelings onto some weird object like a piece of moldy cheese, which then assumes urban legendary status with the power to cooty-fy anyone who touches it. And in the middle of this we are also expected to live through algebra and PE.

Greg thinks he understands what it takes to succeed in middle school, despite the endless list of “don’ts” he gets from his older brother Rodrick (an enjoyably predatory Devon Bostick). “You’ll be dead or homeschooled by the end of the year,” he concludes. Greg is sure that his elementary school best friend Rowley (Robert Capron) is clueless — Rowley still says things like “You want to come over and play?” instead of “You want to hang out?” and does a dance number WITH HIS MOM at a school party. But this wouldn’t be a movie — and it wouldn’t be middle school — unless Greg had some important lessons to learn about coolness, friendship, and just how much he still needs to learn.

The movie captures the tone of the books, even including animated segments featuring the book’s stick figures. Gordon has an engaging screen presence that keeps us on his side. He and Capron seem like real kids, centering even the heightened situations and emotions by reminding us that in middle school, that’s how it really feels.

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17 Replies to “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”

  1. Oh gees – is there going to be a test on this stuff? Do we HAVE to keep a journal (maybe I’ll write it all out the night before – if there’s nothing cool on TV)? I can’t find my stupid locker to get the book – so I guess I’ll tell my parents I HAVE to go see the movie.

  2. this movie looks hilarious and true to real life. I’m 51 and want to see it. Brings back memories of those wrotten old days. I was a nerd.

  3. I just returned from this movie and was so disappointed. There is no value in taking your children. The only lesson my kids learned was on the ride home when we discussed all the bad behavior. Very few laughs. If you want to watch mean, obnoxious children and “dumb” adults, stay home and turn on cable t.v.

  4. Thanks, Mona! Let me know what you think. And thanks, midwestmom (I’m from the midwest, myself). Your comments will be very valuable to parents who are trying to decide whether this movie is right for their families. Had you read the books? Had your kids? Did they like the books or the film? I would argue that the discussion in the car on the way home was of great value and the exaggerated bad behavior of the kids in the movie was intended to make just those points, but I understand your perspective.

  5. You recommend for middle school and up, but my 1st and 3rd grader have both read the book series and are begging to go… I’m torn. How “rude” is the humor?

  6. No ruder than the books, Monkie. Some references to puberty and some booger and potty jokes. If the love the books, I’d let them see it.

  7. Kids-in-mind.com mentions the “Moto Mamas” magazine cover in its Sex/Nudity score. How bad is it? How much do we see, how is it handled? My 10 yr old (very young for his age) is dying to go but I am generally careful about cleavage, portrayals of women’s bodies. Am I overly concerned?

  8. Good question, Julie, and I will add a note to my review. It’s a couple of brief glimpses of the cover of a “laddie” magazine. The younger brother uses it to get the older brother in trouble. The woman on the cover is scantily clad but nothing more than you’d see on a beach.

  9. I haven’t seen the movie yet but do plan to take two of my kids (2nd and 4th grade) since they’ve read & discussed the books — and how much they do and don’t act like the boys in them (as brothers, etc.). I think there can be value in movies that don’t necessarily have messages — for entertainment value, if the kids understand the difference between the entertainment and real life. I wouldn’t say that all 2nd graders should see this stuff; nor should they read the books. My general rule is that if the boys have read the books and understand them, then we can decide about seeing the movies.
    (Generally, I prefer the books to the movies…. but most of my generation wasn’t raised with the choice to see a movie instead of reading a book!)
    I would just like to say that I am not a beliefnet reader in general, but I *really* appreciate the MovieMom reviews and have referred to them quite often. It is so helpful, as a parent of three young kids, to have a guide that really gets down to the details of what might concern us. So thanks, Nell, and your publishers!

  10. This is exactly the kind of thoughtful assessment I love to see, JT, many thanks. I agree that the movie is not for many 2nd graders, but for those who love the books and have a healthy understanding of reality vs. fiction (which many kids do not until they are 9 or 10), it should be fine. Even a movie that is “just for entertainment” has a message worth discussing. And this movie has many good topics for discussion about friendship, family, and growing up. Thanks especially for the kind words!

  11. I still felt a little iffy about it, so we compromised… I told them they would get to go to the movie if they aced their AR tests on the books. My 3rd grader got 100% on all 4 books, but my 1st grader got an 80, two 70s and a 60. I just didn’t feel he was ready, so I took the older boy while the younger has been promised How to Train Your Dragon in 3D instead. (This is really a great compromise, since he loves 3D and his brother is bothered by it *grins*)
    The movie was a little more over-the-top than I’d expected, which is my just deserts for not having read the books, but that made me double glad to have taken him. He’d already been exposed to the material, but seeing the movie together gave us a chance to open up a dialogue about it that I’d have otherwise missed. As usual, he was way ahead of the game when it came to understanding lessons about friendship and responsibility… but the concept of a naughty magazine had to be explained (and later: “…but how do they get the women to let them take the pictures?” lol). And maybe my own sense of humor stalled in junior high, but I thought the movie was dead funny. 😀

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