It is really hard to care about a movie when it seems like everyone involved doesn't seem to particularly care about it either. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is the bottom of the barrel when it comes to kids' movies relying on peeing-in-the-pool jokes and exaggerated facial expressions to try and coax a chuckle out of its audience.
The third movie based on the popular books by Jeff Kinney is a series of vaguely related vignettes that chronicle the misadventures of Greg Heffley (Zach Gordon) the eponymous wimpy kid. Whether or not the disjointed nature of the script is because it is based on two of Kinney's books — The Last Straw and Dog Days according to his website — is beside the point; the fact remains that it's a mess and perhaps one last cash grab at the series before its stars age out of their roles.
Greg's main problems are that his crush Holly (Peyton List) didn't get a chance to leave her entire number in his yearbook before she was whisked away and that his dad Frank (Steve Zahn) wants him to do something other than play video games all day. His solution is to tag along with his friend Rowley (Robert Capron) to the fancy country club where Holly teaches tennis lessons to kids. As a bonus Greg tells his dad he's got a job there too. However he's kind of a putz so his problems are really his fault and caused by him lying and generally acting like a jerk to people like Rowley. Rowley is of course dorky and chubby and feels terrible when he lies and is generally a good kid; he's supposed to be a comic foil or a sidekick but it's really hard to rustle up any sympathy for such a poorly written and acted character. The role itself is thankless; the round-faced nerd with the bowl cut who really loves his parents (albeit to an uncomfortable degree) and is a loyal friend is never going to be the real hero of the story.
The most pressing issue is that Greg is not a very compelling character. He's not really "wimpy" or unpopular or anything that would show he's as put-upon by the world as the title indicates; that would have at least opened up the opportunity for a discussion about bullying or something of that nature. He's not beleaguered he's exasperating. In fact pretty much all of the characters are. This is not drama that will lend itself to some grand epiphany but the father/son arc is so weak it's difficult to believe that they're having significant problems or that it means anything when they finally see eye to eye.
There is a small but insidious mean streak in the movie as well. An early scene shows Greg hunting for his little brother in the men's locker room at the local pool and his discomfort at the scenes around him — Men with hairy backs! Men clipping their gross yellowed toenails! — illustrates a squeamishness that sets off a few alarm bells. Yes it's scary and weird to see the bodies of naked strangers especially when your own body is about to be going all crazy growing hair and zits and weird stuff but the way it's played for laughs is downright icky. Later Greg's brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick) pretends to be drowning to get the attention of his crush and ends up getting CPR from an older man a gesture that leaves Rodrick practically gagging. The idea that it's weak and therefore unmanly to have love for one's parents and value honesty (as per Rowley) or engage in selflessness (as per the CPR-giver) isn't really disproved by the end. Greg makes amends with Rowley and Greg realizes that his dad isn't perfect either and that it really is better to be honest and loving towards your friends and family but it's all as hollow as a Hallmark movie that wraps everything up in time for the commercial break.
The acting is about as good as you'd expect. Gordon reacts to almost everything with a sort of wizened/constipated look that may call to mind Woody Allen or some other menschy type but it doesn't fly. Zahn has an occasionally funny moment that some adults will pick up on but that's about it. Bostick reprises his role as Greg's older brother Rodrick who is a sort of mall punk desperate to impress Holly's horrible older sister Heather (Melissa Roxburgh). Bostick is sort of funny although this seems like the role that will probably embarrass him in years to come especially his performance in one of the very few entertaining scenes in the whole movie. (It involves pyrotechnics prissy sixteen-year-olds and a bug-eyed version of "Baby.") The talented Rachael Harris is saddled with the thankless job of playing the matriarch of this brood; she spends her scant time onscreen with a toddler on her hip imploring her husband and/or son to communicate and so forth.
It's hard to not be cynical about kids' movies and studios looking to make a quick summer buck and Dog Days is a great example why. There are plenty of other interesting things for you and your family to enjoy in theaters this summer; really you would actually be better off staying home and playing video games with your kids than seeing Dog Days.
Proving that it's no wimp at the box office, Fox’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules tops the weekend with an impressive $24.4 million. Families and kids evidently want to follow the further expolits of Rodrick and Greg Heffley as they deal with various humiliations and occasional triumphs of adolescent life. The original film in the franchise opened about just over ayear ago in second place (behind juggernaut Alice in Wonderland) with a solid $22.1 million and went on to earn $64 million domestically. This installment clearly capitalize on the fact that it is the only live action family film in wide release in the marketplace and Fox backed it up with a terrific marketing campaign.
Sucker Punch from visionary director Zack Snyder who had success in bringing both his Spartan-epic 300 and the hyper-kinetic reality of Watchmen to the big screen lands in second with $19 million. A marketing campaign that featured a trailer that highlighted not only the collective beauty of its female stars including Aussie Emily Browning, High School Musical’s Vanessa Hudgens and The Adjustment Bureau’s Abbie Cornish, but also the music of Led Zeppelin, intrigued the fanboys and girls. Once again IMAX delivered additional visual as well as box office punch to the proceedings with $4.1 million in 229 domestic locations, and at 21% the giant screen company’s best 2-D percentage ever!
Check out our exclusive 'Sucker Punch'-themed comic strip from Francesco Marciuliano. Francesco writes the internationally-syndicated comic strip “Sally Forth” and the webcomic “Medium Large.” He was the head writer for the PBS series “SeeMore’s Playhouse,” for which one of his episodes won two 2007 Daytime Emmys. He currently writes for the Onion News Network.
America’s freshly appointed leading man Bradley Cooper took third place as Relativity Media’s Limitless earned $15.2 million this weekend against a uber-small 19% second weekend drop and a 10-day total of $41.3 million. A surprisingly strong debut last weekend that caught many off guard proves that Hangover favorite Cooper is a box office draw in his own right. Of course the presence of a terrific supporting cast including Robert De Niro and a solid marketing campaign did not hurt the film’s chances with audiences looking for a unique mind-bending thriller.
Lionsgate’s The Lincoln Lawyer had the strongest second weekend hold of any film on the chart realizing a mere 17% drop and a solid word-of-mouth driven $11 million. The Matthew McConaughey starring vehicle had performed well all through the mid-week and has earned $29 million in 10 days of release.
Paramount’s animated Rango, entered its fourth weekend with a lot of momentum having impressively secured a second place finish last weekend against a tiny 33% drop and a domestic gross that eclipsed $100 million this weekend. A fifth place finish of $9.8 million and a domestic total to date of $106.4 million proves that this is an animated film that remains a family favorite with kids and Johnny Depp fans alike.
This is the fifth consecutive down weekend at the box office with year ago comparisons giving us yet another sucker punch when How to Train Your Dragon had a $43.7 million debut and year-to-date revenue stood 8.90% ahead of 2009. Currently year-to-date revenues are running 19% behind last year at this point.
Weekend Box-Office Estimates
Top Movies - For Weekend of March 25, 2011 - Estimates
Movie Weekend Gross Total to Date
1 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (PG) $24.4M $24.4M
2 Sucker Punch (NR) $19.0M $19.0M
3 Limitless (PG-13) $15.2M $41.8M
4 The Lincoln Lawyer (R) $11.0M $29.1M
5 Rango (PG) $9.8M $106.4M
6 Battle: Los Angeles $7.6M $72.6M
7 Paul $7.5M $24.6M
8 Red Riding Hood $4.3M $32.5M
9 The Adjustment Bureau $4.2M $54.9M
10 Mars Needs Moms! $2.2M $19.1M
"It would be cool! They're coming out with the Spider-Man Broadway musical and I'd like to do something like that." DIARY OF A WIMPY KID star ROBERT CAPRON, 11, has his sights set on starring in an action-packed Broadway show.