You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

An appealing, if glossy, adaptation of Jeff Kinney's hugely popular cartoon-illustrated novel.

Greg Heffley - Zachary Gordon Rowley Jefferson - Robert Capron Susan Heffley - Rachael Harris Rodrick Heffley - Devon Bostick Angie Steadman - Chloe Grace Moretz Frank Heffley - Steve Zahn Fregley - Grayson Russell Patty Farrell - Laine MacNeil Chirag Gupta - Karan Brar Manny Heffley - Connor Fielding, Owen Fielding

An appealing, if glossy, adaptation of Jeff Kinney’s hugely popular cartoon-illustrated novel, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” is an amusing romp through the awkward years of middle school. As told from the perspective of its 11-year-old narrator, it’s a spry, fluffy comedy that, given Kinney’s track record — the five-book “Wimpy Kid” series has sold 28 million copies to date — should have no trouble drawing young viewers.

Initiated as a series of online cartoons, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” made a big splash upon its 2007 publication as a “novel in cartoons,” and its universal Everykid premise went on to spawn vigorous Internet fan activity. Eponymous hero Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon, faintly recalling the young Fred Savage) is like an anti-Harry Potter: He has no magic or any other discernible powers, and his best asset is a sardonic take on middle school: “Let me just say that I think (it’s) the dumbest idea ever invented,” he writes. “You got kids like me who haven’t hit their growth spurt yet mixed in with these gorillas who need to shave twice a day.”

Helmer Thor Freudenthal (“Hotel for Dogs”) wastes no time establishing Greg’s world: He’s routinely hazed by his older brother, Rodrick (Devon Bostick), humiliated by his little brother, Manny (played by Connor and Owen Fielding), and often overlooked altogether by his parents (Rachael Harris, Steve Zahn). His best friend is the doughy, decidedly uncool Rowley Jefferson (Robert Capron).

In a hilarious though highly sitcomish introductory sequence that sets the pic’s tone, Rodrick tricks Greg into waking up in the middle of the night, insisting he’s going to be late for his first day at his new school. From there, things don’t get much better. Middle school is a land of ritual humiliations, from the physical terrors of a routine gym class to the rejections suffered during lunch, as Greg, Rowley and their nerdy pal Fregley (Grayson Russell) are relegated to the cafeteria floor. Nothing, however, is quite as terrifying as the prospect of touching “the cheese” — a stinky slice of Swiss cheese that has laid on the playground asphalt for months and ripened into a stomach-churning shade of bluish yellow. Anyone who touches it, one boy reports, may unleash “nuclear cooties” on the school.

Working from a script credited to Jackie Filgo, Jeff Filgo, Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah, Freudenthal moves briskly through the various vignettes, at once entertaining and painful. In the book, Greg’s wry observations were explicated with sparse black-and-white cartoons. Here, Kinney’s original drawings are likewise interspersed alongside the stream-of-consciousness musings of their narrator. Greg’s stated goal of becoming a yearbook “class favorite” appears just as unlikely as a rise in his popularity ranking — amusingly detailed in Kinney’s accompanying sketches.

As designed by Brent Thomas and lensed by Jack Green, Greg’s environment is a world of shiny surfaces, sun-dappled trees and heightened colors. There’s little about this milieu that feels truly authentic, which is notable, given Sach and Judah’s writing credit on “Freaks and Geeks.” That show and the work of the late John Hughes remain the highwater marks for any take on adolescent angst; given what the genre can accomplish, then, it’s a bit of a shame that “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” keeps things so simple and superficial. Nevertheless, it’s an enjoyable ride — albeit one infused with enough gross-out moments to make you feel relieved you’ve left middle school far behind.

Popular on Variety

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Production: A 20th Century Fox release of a Fox 2000 Pictures presentation of a Color Force production in association with Dune Entertainment and DayDay Films. Produced by Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson. Executive producer, Jeff Kinney. Co-producer, Ethan Smith. Directed by Thor Freudenthal. Screenplay, Jackie Filgo, Jeff Filgo, Gabe Sachs, Jeff Judah, based on the novel by Jeff Kinney.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Jack Green; editor, Wendy Greene Bricmont; music, Theodore Shapiro; music supervisor, Julia Michels; production designer, Brent Thomas; art director, Shannon Grover; set designer, Anneke van Oort, costume designer, Monique Prudhomme, sound (Dolby Digital/DTS), Darren Brisker; sound designer, Elliott L. Koretz; re-recording mixers, Jim Bolt, Anna Behlmer; visual effects supervisor, Mark Dornfeld; visual effects and animation, Custom Film Effects; assistant director, Pete Whyte; stunt coordinator, Dave Hospes; casting, Heike Brandstatter, Ronna Kress, Coreen Mayrs. Reviewed at 20th Century Fox Studios, Los Angeles, March 16, 2010. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 92 MIN.

With: Greg Heffley - Zachary Gordon Rowley Jefferson - Robert Capron Susan Heffley - Rachael Harris Rodrick Heffley - Devon Bostick Angie Steadman - Chloe Grace Moretz Frank Heffley - Steve Zahn Fregley - Grayson Russell Patty Farrell - Laine MacNeil Chirag Gupta - Karan Brar Manny Heffley - Connor Fielding, Owen Fielding

More Film

  • Slovak Artist Juraj Horvath Gives Ji.hlava

    Slovak Artist Juraj Horvath Gives Ji.hlava Film Festival Its Distinctive Look

    The distinctive look and feel of the Czech Republic’s Ji.hlava film festival – fringy, arty, a bit punk via eco-warrior – is down in many ways to one man: Juraj Horvath. The Slovak artist, provocateur and illustrator of children’s books has created what he calls the “visual identity” of the docu fest for 20 years [...]

  • Edgar Ramirez to Star in ‘The

    Edgar Ramirez to Star in ‘The War Has Ended’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Edgar Ramirez, best known for “Carlos” and “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” will star in the drama “The War Has Ended,” from writer and director Hagar Ben-Asher’s award-winning original script about a man in search of his children. Mister Smith Entertainment will launch international sales at next month’s American Film Market. The film is being [...]

  • Spanish Antitrust Regulator to Probe U.S.

    Spanish Regulator to Probe U.S. Studios Over Possible Anti-Competitive Practices

    Spanish antitrust regulator, the National Commission of Markets and Competition, has launched an 18-month probe into possible anti-competitive practices by the local distribution branches of Hollywood studios Disney, Sony, Warner Bros., Fox, Universal and Paramount, as well as local companies providing digital services and exhibitors. The antitrust body said it was investigating 14 companies “for [...]

  • American Society of Cinematographers Honoring Frederick

    American Society of Cinematographers to Honor Frederick Elmes

    The American Society of Cinematographers will honor Frederic Elmes with a lifetime achievement award. The ASC is also honoring Donald A. Morgan with the career achievement in television award, Bruno Delbonnel with the international award; and Don McCuaig with the presidents awards. The accolades will be presented at the annual ASC awards gala on Jan. [...]

  • 'American Factory,' 'Apollo 11' Nominated for

    'American Factory,' 'Apollo 11' Score International Documentary Award Nominations

    “American Factory,” “Apollo 11,” “For Sama” and “The Edge of Democracy” have scored multiple nominations for the International Documentary Awards. “Advocate,” “Honeyland,” “Midnight Family,” “One Child Nation,” “Sea of Shadows,” and “The Biggest Little Farm” also received nods. The 35th Annual IDA Documentary Awards will be held on Dec. 7 at Paramount Studios in Los [...]

  • Joker Movie 2019

    Box Office: How 'Joker' Became Insanely Profitable

    Joaquin Phoenix’s “Joker” has become a certified box office sensation, earning $744 million in worldwide ticket sales after less than a month in theaters. Making that haul all the sweeter, Warner Bros., the studio behind the R-rated origin story about Batman’s nemesis, spent $62.5 million to finance the film, a fraction of what most comic-book [...]

  • Mackenzie Davis Terminator Dark Fate

    ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Paramount Pictures claims the top spot in spending with “Terminator: Dark Fate.” Ads placed for the sci-fi action film had an estimated media value of $6.81 million through Sunday for 796 national ad airings [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content