The “Wimpy Kid” is wimpy no more. Two weekends ago, in its opening weekend,the new film based on the book “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” beat Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler’s new movie “The Bounty Hunter” and Jude Law’s new film “Repo Man” for a second place finish at the box office. “Wimpy Kid” did lose first place to “Alice in Wonderland” but it still was a strong opening weekend for the new family film. Although “Wimpy Kid” does have some obvious flaws, it is still a fun and imaginative film that has a positive but not a preachy message for young people.
The film “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” tells the story of Greg Hefley, a young adult entering into middle school as one of the smallest kids in his class. His older brother has told him about the hardships of middle school and Greg walks into school knowing that he needs to have a plan for success in order to survive. He works hard to make himself popular in school (trying to climb up the popularity ladder). In his quest for popularity, Greg joins the wrestling team, participates in a school play and wears business attire to school to make himself look “cool.”
He spends nearly the entire film trying out new schemes to become more popular, schemes that often backfire and cause him to become less cool than his otherwise “uncool” friends. Near the beginning of the film, Greg had realized that his friends were not well-regarded at school. Therefore, he tried unsuccessfuly to distance himself from them and then he tried to make them cooler. Both ideas failed when one of his friends, in particular, became much cooler than him, according to the popularity scale.
As with many other family friendly movies, the movie has a positive message for kids about accepting people and their quirks, in spite of how “uncool” those quirks may be. However, unlike films like “Avatar,” this film is not preachy in advancing its message. In fact, one of the parts of the film that I really enjoyed was that the hero was not always a likable character. Greg does a lot of scheming in the movie and he even causes one of his best friends to get into trouble for something he did. When Greg admits the truth to his friend, he does not tell any adults about what he did, leaving his friend in trouble. Additionally, when he admits the truth to his friend, he does it in a half-hearted way and he tells his friend that they can both learn lessons from what is clearly only Greg’s mistake.
Greg is a likable character though, and Zachary Gordon does a great job in the role. Gordon makes the lead character extremely likable and tremendously mischievous at the same time. Greg may be a wimpy and sometimes manipulative kid but he is one that the audience can root for. He also may be cynical at some points but he also has some tough adversaries, including his older brother who likes to intimidate him and a girl at school who likes to embarrass him.
Additionally, the story of the film is also creative and imaginative. One of the running stories in the film is a rumor about a rotting piece of cheese outside the school. Students who touch the cheese are inflicted, according to the school rumors, and have to pass “the cheese touch” on to other people or else people will avoid them. It is a fun little side story that will likely remind viewers of their own youthful beliefs, including the danger of getting “cooties.”
On the negative side, the film often engages in potty and gross adolescent humor that is often unnecessary. The movie would have succeeded more without that childish humor. However, “Wimpy Kid” is a solid and often funny film about middle school that families will enjoy. The “kid” might be considered wimpy but his film is definitely a strong one.