DIARY OF A WIMPY KID 2: RODRICK RULES (2011)
Starring Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Rachael Harris, Robert Capron, Steve Zahn, Peyton List, Laine MacNeil, Grayson Russell, Karan Brar, Connor Fielding, Owen Fielding and Ben Hollingsworth.
Screenplay by Gabe Sachs & Jeff Judah.
Directed by David Bowers.
Distributed by 20th Century Fox. 96 minutes. Rated PG.
It is sometimes asked why modern children have so much less respect than earlier generations. I don’t have children and do not know enough of them to say if this assessment is accurate. However, I get the feeling that if kids misbehave more today than they did in the past (which is, granted, a big if), it probably has something to do with being exposed to things like Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Rodrick Rules.
Before you get all upset, I’m not one of those people who feel that children have to be shielded from any types of entertainment that may be a little more advanced or quirky. Also, from what I hear (again, as someone who is not a parent), the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series is actually quite well-done children’s literature.
However, the second shot in the film series (and I had thought the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid film had been a pretty big box-office bust, I’m rather surprised they made a sequel) is a celebration of all things obnoxious for children: lying, bird poop, practical jokes, ageism, gross food, lip-synching, underwear, laziness, farts, bad music, bullying, fake vomit, dorks, constant arguing and a garage band cleverly named Löded Diper. (Loaded Diaper! Get it? Umm, no, I don’t either.)
Then, when you think it can’t get any worse, they have a talent show in which a girl sings “Memory!”
In Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2, the adults are stupid and the kids are devious and mean.
It’s a wonderful lesson to teach the children.
I wish I could say that this was a problem that is unique to Rodrick Rules, but way too much of children’s entertainment has taken on a snarky, obnoxious quality. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’d say that at least 75% of the characters in kids films are such spoiled, entitled jerks that they should be grounded until their college graduation.
Real kids don’t act like this, do they?
I’d like to think not. I tend to think that this rampant snarkiness and arrogance all stems from Bart Simpson. However, there is one serious difference – The Simpsons, though animated, is not aimed at children. Well, Bart, for all his obnoxiousness, was also usually funny, so I guess there is more than one difference.
That said, I do have to admit that Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 is marginally less annoying than last year’s first film. The main character is made somewhat more relatable and less grating – though his older brother Rodrick is still a horror.
This is a teen who only exists to torment his younger brother. Literally, Rodrick will lock him in the basement, videotape the kid running around an old age home in his underwear, get him nearly beaten up by using fake vomit on strangers at a liquor store. Plus, Rodrick regales his brother with his titular “rules” – a series of teen lessons which include: pretend to be bad at something you don’t want to do, always lower people’s expectations of you, never do something if you can get someone else to and the coup de grace – always lie, and even if you get caught continue to deny it.
Again: a wonderful set of lessons for children.
Of course, even their rebellious spirit is kind of lame, like when Rodrick disobeys their parents and decides to have a party and their house gets filled up with hundreds of teens eating pretzels, TPing the lawn, playing with Civil War figurines and getting buzzed out of their minds… drinking soda.
Oh those crazy kids.
The adults aren’t much better, although despite the fact that she is saddled with a horribly clichéd and gullible character, Rachael Harris is able to make the mom sympathetic. She does actually have some nuance and dimension to her, which can’t be said for the role of the dad, in which normally reliable comic actor Steve Zahn is completely abandoned without a part.
Truth is the seventh grade is a pretty miserable time of life. If the Diary of a Wimpy Kid makers want to get me to revisit it, they will have to come up with a better reason than this sub-sitcom fare.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 24, 2011.