With its mild moral messages and mid-level movie-making, the second film inspired by writer/ illustrator Jeff Kinney’s popular book series keeps within the well-set constraints of the modern kid-flick.
More interested in emotional connections than an overarching plot, it’s episodic and flickers between “reality” and fantasy, as animated interludes bring Kinney’s bold caricatures to life.
Much like last year’s Ramona And Beezus, Diary’s narrative is just a patchwork frame for the script’s explorations of both sibling love and sibling rivalry.
Zachary Gordon returns as Greg Heffley, the titular student trapped in a series of increasingly mortifying social mishaps. Only this time, he’s forced to hang with his older, rumpled brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick).
If any one thing elevates Diary, it’s not Gordon but Bostick’s work as the rock’n’roll Rodrick. In every scene, every line reading, and every bit of facial mugging, Bostick hurls himself into the job with the kind of fervour that suggests no one told him he was actually in a film called Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules.
Steve Zahn also gets some nice deadpan moments as the devoted dad overwhelmed by mom Rachael Harris’ smother-mother excesses.
Director David Bowers, jumping slightly clumsily from animation (Flushed Away) to (mostly) live action, keeps the film moving, stitching disparate moments into the brotherly bonding arc.
Greg Heffley is hardly giving Samuel Johnson a run for his money as a diarist, but Diary offers fans of the books what they want, while offering very little to anyone else.
More of the same for a good-enough kids’ film series. But Bostick’s vim and vigour help, and the balance of message with entertainment is less clumsy than you’d fear.