Sunday 29 August 2010

The skinny: "Diary of a Wimpy Kid"

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is nothing to do with burgers - some other joint got the promotional tie-in, presumably - but a peppy, likable adaptation of author Jeff Kinney's pre-teen favourites. Zachary Gordon plays Greg Heffley, a tween not quite cool enough for the in-crowd, but too savvy for the nerds, negotiating his way through his first year in high school, aided by a clueless buddy, hindered by a dick of an older brother. The scene is set for various set-pieces stitched together, not always fluently, from the source material, usually involving Greg and best friend Rowley Jefferson (Robert Capron, in every sense full of beans) adopting some new uniform or other: wrestlers' unitards, Hallowe'en costumes, a hi-visibility tabard worn for the purposes of after-school babysitting.

You could say TV sitcoms - Malcolm in the Middle and Everybody Hates Chris in particular - got here first, though maybe the demographics for those shows track a crucial couple of years older. No mind: director Thor Freudenthal, last observed biding time on Hotel for Dogs, casts well in the lead roles - these kids are lively, but not overly cute - and has fun with such Kinneyisms as "the cheese touch" (a lurgie-like curse that sets up expectations of a massive last-reel game of tig that never follows), a 1980s instructional video on schoolyard self-esteem, and a synchronised mother-son dance routine to the Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic". Best of all - as evidenced by the preservation of Kinney's stick-figure illustrations - he knows the advantages to be gained from keeping things simple. It's refreshing to see a family flick where no-one has superpowers, and someone's laid low with mono; one which extols the virtues of simply hanging out with your pals. And frankly, at this point in the holidays, it's a blessed relief to happen across something that doesn't involve talking CG animals.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is on general release.

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