Gordon and Bostick are appealing young actors with bright futures, but the adults in this Wimpy Kid have more for which to answer. Steve Zahn, who plays the boys’ father and who has shown admirable depth as an actor in films like Sunshine Cleaning and Rescue Dawn, is left to do little more in Wimpy Kid than mug for the camera. Harris has a larger role as Greg's and Rodrick’s mom, but her most memorable moment comes when she makes a fool of herself in front of a large crowd.

The film’s message, or lesson, boils down to “we’re brothers”—words uttered more than once as a way of explaining the enduring importance of brotherly love. But the message feels forced in a film that plays like a TV sitcom driven by gags, not moral lessons. This Kid contains a few chuckles, but nothing particularly cinematic or memorable.

Everything that seemed fresh and unpredictable about the previous Wimpy Kid film has vanished or grown flabby for this installment. The film looks cheap and, worse, feels rushed.

If you’re a Wimpy Kid fan, you might want to revisit the first film or stick to Kinney’s books rather than pay top dollar to see Rodrick Rules. Perhaps a weaker showing at the box-office for this Kid will give the makers of a potential third film pause, and lead to a better screenplay and more inspired visual treatment of the material. Otherwise, the natural home for future Kid films is on the small screen.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity: “Oh my God”; “jerk”; chocolate stain on pants mistaken for “poop”; “holy pepperoni”; name-calling (“nerds,” “doofus”); “suck”; “fart”; “butt brain.”
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: A child sings along to a song lyric that states he “leaves with a bottle of Jack”; Rodrick throws a party while his parents are out of town, but snacks and soda appear to be the food and beverage of choice.
  • Sex/Nudity: Girls kiss Rowley on the cheek; Greg runs in his underwear and is later accused of being a peeping tom.
  • Violence/Crime: Rodrick smacks the back of Greg’s head; Rowley sits on a tin foil ball with protrusions; sibling taunts include Rodrick locking Greg in the basement.
  • Religion/Morals: The family attends a church service; Rodrick encourages Greg to lie to their parents; Greg hands in a school paper written by his brother

Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@hotmail.com.