"Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” is conclusive evidence that every joke involving a public pool has been done to death. If there’s a little kid in the pool, he’ll unquestionably urinate and splash somebody. You can also count on the long-suffering protagonist at some point losing his swim trunks and having to dodge others in the nude. Then there are gags involving the pool being crowded with kids, being fearful of jumping off the high dive, navigating through the locker room, etcetera. Every adult in the theater will foresee these instances from a mile away. The targeted younger crowd on the other hand, will likely be caught off guard by these scenes and smile in glee.
“Dog Days” marks the third film adaptation in the popular “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” franchise. Zachary Gordon is back as Greg Heffley, who remains every bit as awkward despite the fact that his voice has dropped. With summer on the horizon, Greg assumes that the next three months will entail nothing but video games. But Greg’s father, played by Steve Zahn, has more active plans for his low-functioning son. The wimpy kid is thus thrown into a number of circumstances involving fishing, camping and raising a dog. Down the road, Greg hopes to win the affection of his crush Holly Hills, played by Peyton List, who is spending most of her summer teaching tennis at a country club.
There’s much more to enjoy in this “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” movie than expected. Director David Bowers does an admirable job at integrating the simplistic illustrations from the original book into the picture. The screenplay moves at a swift pace and occasionally offers some satirical insight regarding middle school life. The most commendable aspect of the film is the ensemble of kids, which, in addition to Gordon, includes Robert Capron as the goodhearted Rowley and Devon Bostick as the meathead brother Rodrick. These are all irrefutably likable and charming performers with fantastic presence. That’s more than can be said about “Are We Done Yet?” or “Daddy Day Camp.”
All of this comes close to saving the film. But it frequently takes the easy route with lowbrow humor and an obvious formula. “Dog Days” is a little reminiscent of the Disney Channel cartoon “Phineas and Ferb,” which also focuses on children during the summertime. But that show has a certain sly sense of humor and creativity that makes it fun for all ages to observe. “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” is strictly intended for kids.
That being said, those under 14 are going to have a great time at the movie. Their parents will tolerate watching the film as long as their kids are amused. This just isn’t a movie that a grown up will want to see on their own. “Dog Days” didn’t have much of an impact on me. Yet, I can’t help but suspect that I would have really liked it as a 10 year old.
Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.