Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days caters to kids without being offensive or pretentious
Starring Zachary Gordon, Steve Zahn, and Peyton List. Rated G. Now playing
Dog Days is the third film based on author Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. The books have sold faster than lemonade on a hot summer day. And if this locally shot sequel feels a bit like someone has diluted the Kool-Aid, there’s still enough life left in Kinney’s overtly gentle premise to amuse your average nine-year-old.
A lot of the credit goes to young Zachary Gordon, who returns as the geeky Greg Heffley. Greg is the middle kid in a family that includes a chipper mom (Rachael Harris), a dense older brother (Devon Bostick), and a bumbling dad (Steve Zahn). Although much of Dog Days deals with sitcom clichés in a familiar way, Gordon comes across like a junior-high version of Walter Matthau. He adds much-needed texture to a concept that is, basically, a watered-down update of TV’s The Wonder Years.
The plot is relatively simple. Greg schemes to have control over his summer without his parents butting in. He wants to find a way to get closer to his dream girl (Peyton List) while spending as much time playing video games as humanly possible. The problem? His mother wants him to read Little Women and his dad wants to bond by showing him the majesty of the great outdoors.
It’s fun to watch a wide-eyed Zahn play a character who seems openly baffled by the emotional demands of fatherhood. But the real achievement here is that director David Bowers knows exactly what his preteen audience likes. They want gross but not too gross, so a scene where Greg loses his swim trunks in a country-club pool is played just right. Not everything here works nearly as well. But there’s something to be said for a movie that caters to kids without being offensive or pretentious.
Watch the trailer for Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days.