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Diary of a Wimpy Kid Part 2: Rodrick Rules!

July 12, 2011

For some reason when I first saw the trailer for Diary of a Wimpy Kid Part 2: Rodrick Rules, I was immediately magnetized although I wasn’t sure why. All I knew was that something inside of me was dying to down a couple of shots and watch what appeared to be a shallow pre-teen comedy. About a third of the way into watching and after having a decent amount of laugh out loud moments at the ridiculous scenarios taking place on screen, I knew my desire to see Rodrick Rules was not in vain. Like George Washington, I can not tell a lie– Rodrick Rules has become my new favorite cult film. Now let me redeem myself by stating that Diary of Wimpy Kid Part 2: Rodrick Rules isn’t a film that I want others to think is canonical or some great hidden treasure, although I do find it to be grossly underrated. It’s no doubt that one’s sense of humor is vital to whether Diary of a Wimpy Kid Part 2 will be considered an enjoyable film or not. I find poop jokes and Schadenfreude hilarious, which explains my constant howls throughout the movie– well that and the vodka that was coursing through my system.

Based off the series Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Rodrick Rules starts off with Greg (Zachary Gordon) returning to school with his best friends as 7th graders. Considered part of the unpopular crowd but more socially accepted than their previous year, Greg is determined to intrigue the likes of the new kid, Holly, while hoping to move his way up the social ladder. Meanwhile Greg’s mom, Susan (Rachael Harris), is determined to find a way to make Greg and his older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick) get along, ultimately deciding to leave the two at home while the rest of the family go on vacation. They are left with only one rule: no guests/parties allowed. But boys being boys, they defy their parents’ wishes instead throwing an epic party that results in the boys scrambling to prevent their parents from ever finding out despite the overwhelming evidence against them.

Arguably there’s really no true climatic conflict in Rodrick Rules, which is what I found to be so endearing and unique about it. There’s no evil teacher looking to ruin Greg’s life, one teacher is instead merely weary of Greg because of his brother’s reputation. There’s no bully who Greg has to avoid besides his own brother and his biggest embarrassments come from his own family’s doings. Problems in Greg’s life are just what happens when you’re a middle child in middle school. When he’s not avoiding the pranks and antics of Rodrick, Greg has to deal with being blamed for asinine things by his 3-year-old brother, Manny, whose own behavior is excused by Susan. Problems that arise in Greg’s life are simply circumstances or products of his own doing.

Because the focus isn’t an overall conflict, audiences just kind of coast along in Greg’s life laughing with him and at him in his embarrassing moments while also rooting for him in times of triumph. The film constantly but cleverly reminds viewers of the fantasy world that Greg exists in because of the book that his life is adapted from, his diary. During the film’s introduction characters are introduced as the cartoon caricatures from the novel but are erased to reveal the live action actors. Every character is overly accentuated in their appearances; hairstyles are clownishly emphasized, lighting at times is overtly bright and unrealistic and mannerisms are exaggerated. Yet these are all because the film takes place within a quirky middle schooler’s diary. Director David Bowers reminds viewers of this fact by masterfully highlighting comedic moments with flashbacks, quick cuts and elaborate shock cuts.

Rodrick Rules can also be seen as a peeping eye into the homes of the modern laid-back household structure. Susan is a weekly column writer whose expertise is raising children, however, she is clueless to her own kid’s antics and they constantly and embarrassingly con her out of her own advice. In one sequence, she lectures Greg about the importance of honesty, a sentiment he takes to larger-than-life proportions in order to instead remind her of the downsides to 100% honesty; such as making her stand in the rain so that he can honestly tell a PTA member over the phone that his mother isn’t in the house at the moment. Susan’s career and devotion to her kids is juxtaposed throughout the film with the boy’s father, Frank (Steve Zahn), a complacent, quiet figure who sheepishly allows his wife to man the household, only making his presence noticeable when the boy’s actions affect him personally.

Family/Kid’s films don’t get enough credit these days. If it’s not a Pixar picture then critics and audiences throw it by the wayside. While this may be justifiable as most family films seem to lack the quality and humor needed to stand out, however, Diary of a Wimpy kid Part 2: Rodrick Rules is a great example of a “good” family/kids film. The jokes are low-brow and simple which works well to entertain children but contain social satire and double entendres for older audience members. Yes, Rodrick is a terrible and dickish character, yes moments are unbearably corny, yes most people over the age of 14 may not find any humor in this film but for those of us who appreciate low-brow simplicity, Diary of Wimpy Kid Part 2 more than works, it excels.

SEE IT. It’s cutely entertaining to say the least.

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