On the opening weekend of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, it became apparent to anyone who takes notice of such things that Kid Culture rules in America’s multiplexes. That’s a beautiful thing, and perhaps perplexing to those oldsters out of the loop, who hadn’t gotten the collective memo that the movie adaptations of Jeff Kinney’s popular novels are on fire with the younger set. Kinney’s particular genius combines engaging and relatable storytelling with a unique presentation of handwritten text on lined paper, peppered with simple cartoon images, all of which makes a smooth transition into movie mode.
In this Diary installment, the second to make it to the big screen, our well-meaning “wimpy kid” hero Greg (Zachary Gordon) is headed into seventh grade in suburban America, boldly enough. But in this new phase of life, he also finds himself teased and tortured by a dreamy new girl in town—with a name that sounds like a ‘burban housing tract, Holly Hills (Peyton List)—and his terrorist older brother, Rodrick (Devon Bostick). The brotherly friction becomes the driving force in the storyline this time out, as they devise pranks and suffer the slings and arrows of parental edicts (i.e., rock ‘n’ roll drummer Rodrick’s banishment from the town talent show for his bad behavior). There are funny bits all along the way, as when the boys’ wary father imagines Rodrick’s dire life should he go down the road of rock ‘n’ roll: a band of shaggy-haired slackers tooling their way to a sign reading “Loserville.”
Even for those beyond the intended demographic, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules boasts plenty of allure. It has cozy comic zing—occasionally punctuated by stick-figure cartoon facsimiles of the characters—and an emotionally neat narrative in which complications find their way to resolution, life lessons are learned, and no one gets hurt. Bring the kids, or have the kids bring you. Either way, this is mall culture of a happy sort.