November 21, 2017

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Are We There Yet? | “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” Movie Review

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Charlie Wright, left, and Jason Drucker in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (David McFadden)

The reboot of the film series based on Jeff Kinney’s wildly popular books lives up to its subtitle; the movie feels more than a little tiresome and less of a joyride.

As fans surely know, the kid actors from the first three films have aged out of their roles and been replaced, as have the grown-ups; Alicia Silverstone and Tom Everett Scott take over from Rachael Harris and Steve Zahn. Rest assured, 12-year-old Greg Heffley (Jason Drucker) is still the put-upon protagonist who has no control over his life, and here he’s the butt of worldwide derision, thanks to a viral video, and a meme, of him and one used, sticky diaper—hence his nickname, Diaper Hands.

After much cajoling, his mom (Silverstone) convinces her horde to take a cross-country road trip for Meemaw’s 90th birthday celebration. Driving by car will allow more quality time during the four-day trek. To jump-start interaction, she confiscates all electronic devices before they hit the road. (Her objectives are the only ones that make sense here.) Greg has other plans; he has reprogrammed the minivan’s GPS to head toward a gaming convention, to win fame and negate his “Diaper Hands” notoriety by making a new video with his gaming idol, Mac Digby (not everyone wants to see granny). Why he feels compelled to go behind his parents’ back instead of just asking permission is tossed aside. In the books, you understand where he’s coming from.

Jason Drucker as Greg, and yes, that’s bird poop (David McFadden)

The entire cast is hampered by the old-fashioned sitcom approach, taking their cues from the mouth-gaping, eye-popping school of acting. In that sense, the film is kicking it old school. Low on logic and high on hijinks, the script is heavily loaded with by-the-number setups in which the humor is forced down viewers’ throats. The first film may have been formulaic, but it was more character-driven and lighter on its feet. Even those who haven’t read the book will know the story line’s road map and pits stop well ahead of time, and there are certainly enough bodily functions for more than one film: an adorable piglet isn’t housebroken, and Greg relieves himself in the car using an empty water bottle—in front of his family.

Each Heffley rigidly stays true to type, though Greg’s dimwitted older brother, would-be rocker Rodrick (Charlie Wright), shows signs of a rapidly decreasing IQ, and Drucker comes across angrier compared to the earlier Greg, Zachary Gordon, and dangerously close to becoming whiny. Greg’s folks probably won’t win any parenting awards as well. The dad (a reticent Scott) agrees to the summer vacation without telling his boss and lies that he’s working from home. The entire family brings so much stuff that there’s no room in the vehicle for passengers. To solve the problem, everyone fills up a sail boat and uses the car as though it’s a U-Haul trailer. Not to mention that Dad talks on the phone while driving and almost gets the family killed.

Kids will want to see this regardless, and because the “Wimpy Kids” films don’t depend on a big budget (or special effects), there are bound to be more. When this is later available on DVD, public library media collections will undoubtedly purchase it to meet a demand. However, for those on a tight budget, it shouldn’t be high on the purchasing list.

Directed by Greg Bowers
Rated PG (scatological humor; it’s a feature-length poop-a-looza)
90 min.

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Kent Turner About Kent Turner

Kent Turner (kturner@mediasourceinc.com) edits SLJ's DVD reviews and is the editor of Film-Forward.com

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