I wasn’t sure what to expect from this movie. I didn’t know anything about the books on which it’s based except that they’re extremely popular and successful. But as sometimes happens, the unknown turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID is a movie about a kid in middle school. That’s it. Although the script has some lines about how school is a metaphor for life, I’m not sure if the writers intended them seriously or meant them as a subtle dig at movies that take themselves too seriously. The filmmakers manage to avoid most of the other clichés that crop up in movies like this. There’s no voice-over narration by the main character as an adult, looking back on his childhood and drawing valuable lessons from it. They don’t have the kid fall in love with some beautiful, unattainable girl and fail to realize that the girl who’s his buddy is a lot smarter and better-looking. Instead it’s just a movie about the stuff that happens during Greg Heffley’s first year of middle school. The plot is episodic and just sort of meanders along (much like real life). Greg is driven by the desire to be popular, and as a result he does some dumb things, some mean things, and occasionally some noble things. The other characters aren’t as well-developed, but this is Greg’s story, after all. The script has a lot of funny lines and situations, and the cast, mostly unknown to me except for Steve Zahn, who plays Greg’s dad, does a fine job.
This is a prime example of a low-key but very good film, filled with characters you’ll probably recognize from your own school days. Yeah, it’s a movie about kids, made more for kids than adults, but I liked it a lot anyway and highly recommend it. Whether it’ll prompt me to read some of the books is doubtful, but who knows? It might happen.