The plot may be a little thin in places (would a parent really believe their underage son got a job without parental consent, never once bothering to ask what it entailed or why there was no salary?), but the characterizations are dead on. Kudos especially to the young actors; Zachary Gordon offers a wide range of complex emotions and has the audience rooting for him every mistake-prone step of the way. Robert Capron could have easily played Rowley as a saccharine sissy, but he manages to be realistic and tender-hearted at the same time. Even Devon Bostick’s mostly clueless but terminally cool Roderick is someone you’re likely to find hanging out at a local record store.

All in all, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is one of the best bets for family entertainment, a feel-good story with a message. One of the kids in my group, a boy about Greg’s age, handed in a review calling it “funny and extraordinary” and “a perfect family movie.” The moms liked it, too. So there you go: this film is parent- and kid-approved.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:   None obvious; there may be drinking in the background at the pool scenes but no major characters indulge.
  • Language/Profanity:  Some name-calling: jerk, stupid, idiot, and so on.
  • Sex/Nudity:  As much of the action takes place at swimming pools, there are a lot of people in swimsuits, some of them bikinis. For bikinis, they’re pretty decent (no thongs). A scene in a men’s locker room with bare male chests and (how to put this politely?) upper rear-end cleavage. Boy sitting on toilet wearing long shirt that covers everything important. A boy gets mouth-to-mouth from a man after faking drowning (he won’t do that again).
  • Violence:  Sometimes intense but always in a slapstick kind of way. No one is ever seriously injured. Car runs over toes; boy hit several times with tennis ball, sometimes in the crotch; a hand gets whomped with a mallet; lots of running, crashing kinds of scenes. Guns fired (blanks) at a Civil War reenactment. Man innocently answers door with knife in hand and is restrained by police. A party goes south after unexpected pyrotechnics lead to chaos of the chocolate fountain kind.
  • Spiritual Themes:   Multiple lessons to be learned here. Deception is a major theme but consequences are clearly shown and more than one character learns honesty. Boy shown disrespecting parents and dealing with the consequences. Greg learns getting yelled at is nothing compared to disappointing his dad. Holly’s spoiled, selfish sister gets a well-deserved comeuppance, a clear case of ‘reaping what you sow’. During a whittling lesson one boy carves what is apparently an Indian god figure; it’s only shown for a moment and the accomplishment is meant to draw a laugh.

Publication date: August 3, 2012