DVD Release Date: December 18, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: August 3, 2012
Rating:  PG for some rude humor
Genre: Comedy, Family
Run Time: 94 minutes
Director: David Bowers
Cast:  Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron and Devon Bostick

First off, Wimpy fans, don’t panic: you haven’t missed anything. Although this is the third film in the series and the title is taken from the fourth in the book series, the movie is based on books three and four. Now you can relax and enjoy the movie—and odds are you will enjoy Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days very much indeed.

As school lets out for the summer, Greg (Zachary Gordon, The Search for Santa Paws) has his vacation activities all planned. Actually, make that “activity” since the one item on his agenda is to play video games. Greg’s father (Steve Zahn, Daddy Day Care) isn’t so keen on that idea, but Greg has a typically convoluted plan to keep dad in the dark. Like most of Greg’s plans, it does not go well. Neither do dad’s misguided attempts to bond with son. Audience members of all ages will identify with the awkwardness of two people with nothing in common reluctantly trying to forge a connection.

Things get better when Greg’s hopelessly sweet best friend Rowley (Robert Capron) invites Greg to join him for a day at the country club. After the insanely crowded - and seriously unsanitary - public pool, the club looks like heaven: it even comes with Greg’s favorite angel, the adorable Holly Hills (Peyton List, 27 Dresses). Holly is exactly the kind of girl you’d want your son to fall for; her self-absorbed sister Heather (Melissa Roxburgh) not so much, but naturally she’s the one Greg’s older brother Roderick (Devon Bostick) adores. So when Greg finds a way to hang out at the club all summer (despite the fact that he’s not a member), Roderick bullies Greg into sneaking him in, too. If they’re not careful, Greg may end up at Spag Union, the local military academy-esque school for unruly boys. But let’s get serious: this is Greg and Roderick we’re talking about. Something bad is bound to happen, and more often than not, it does, to hilarious effect.

One of the strongest elements of the Wimpy Kid series is that the whole family will find someone to relate to. Kids will identify with Greg (as will anyone who’s been to junior high), adults will appreciate Greg’s parents, and everyone will laugh their heads off at clean, family-friendly comedy. I took a group to the preview; parents and kids alike deemed Dog Days the funniest of the series. While there is a certain “eeeuuuwww” aspect to some of the comedy, it’s never gross for grossness’ sake. The humor is never mean-spirited and, to be fair, even the more disgusting moments are not only funny, they’re realistic. These things do happen and it’s actually pretty funny when they happen to other people.

The film also offers a number of teachable moments for kids and parents alike. Greg’s mom (Rachael Harris, The Soloist), a Sarah Palin look-alike mostly absorbed with Greg’s younger brother, encourages her husband to “be the father you wish your father had been.” He tries, but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and both father and son have honesty issues. Deception is a major theme, but so is owning up to one’s mistakes and misdeeds. By summer’s end, both Greg and his dad have matured and are surprised to find they have more in common than they thought possible.