“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules,” written by Gabe Sachs, Jeff Judah and Jeff Kinney (book), directed by David Bowers, 99 minutes, rated PG.
When 20th Century Fox captured lightning in a bottle with its 2010 adaptation of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, a sequel was inevitable.
Within a year, the studio released “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules,” a slightly inferior version of the original.
In “Rodrick Rules,” Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon, perfectly cast) enters seventh grade, which to audiences, will feel uncannily like sixth grade. Greg hasn’t evolved a bit. He looks the same, acts the same, and still finds himself on the bottom of the social pecking order.
And it seems like everyone is still out to make Greg’s life as embarrassing as possible – none more than his older brother, Rodrick (Devon Bostick).
Greg and Rodrick’s mom, Susan (Rachel Harris), reaches a breaking point with her feuding sons, and offers incentives and ultimatums to force the two together. The brothers’ bond, or lack thereof, is the backbone of “Rodrick Rules,” but more than anything it serves as an excuse to put Greg through a battery of socially awkward moments. Because, after all, that’s what “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” is all about.
“Rodrick Rules” takes material that should be stale (a candy bar stain on the back of Greg’s pants, for example) and somehow makes it work. A lot of credit should go out to the cast, with much of the movie’s humor resting on the shoulders of 19-year-old Devon Bostick. He succeeds, creating a diabolical big brother – mischievous, larger-than-life and surprisingly relatable. Everyone has had a Rodrick in their life, to some degree. Or, maybe you are the Rodrick to others. Either way, with this role, Bostick again shows the world that he is a young actor to watch.
And if you’ve come expecting more sophomoric antics from Greg and Rowley (Robert Capron), you’ll find plenty here. They’re amusing enough. But where the movie really resonates with audiences, both young and old, is in its exploration of the inner workings of middle school life. It lifts those embarrassing moments from everyone’s childhood and amplifies them. If you attended middle school, odds are that you’ve lived through much of Greg’s trials and tribulations.
The sequel does a weak job of parroting its predecessor, however, feeling less like a bona fide follow-up and more like an extended episode of a Nickelodeon TV series. Scraping by on its sense of humor and ability to take you back to the good (or not-so-good) days of middle school, “Rodrick Rules” should please “Wimpy Kid” fans.