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Video Reviews

MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Comedy, Kids
Cast
Zachary Gordon as Greg Heffley; Devon Bostick as Rodrick Heffley; Steve Zahn as Frank Heffley; Rachael Harris as Susan Heffley; Robert Capron as Rowley; Melissa Roxburgh as Heather Hills; Peyton List as Holly Hills; Grayson Russell as Fregley; Karan Brar as Chirag; Laine MacNeil as Patty Farrell
Director
David Bowers (Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, Astro Boy, Flushed Away)
Distributor
20th Century Fox
In Theaters
August 3, 2012
On Video
December 18, 2012
Reviewer
Bob Hoose
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

It's official. The last of the yearbooks have been signed, the last frown from a teacher has been aimed and the last school bell has rung for the year. It's summer.

And, boy, does Greg Heffley have the perfect summer plan: He's going to grab a giant bag of chips, a six-pack of soda, a good-sized chunk of living room floor and play him some video games. Day and night, night and day. Video games, 24/7.

At least that would have been the perfect summer plan if his family hadn't gotten involved. But, of course, his dad decides that Greg needs to get outside more. And so he goes out and signs the kid up for the Wilderness Explorers. Oh, and there's that Civil War reenactment that they can do together. Woo-hoo, a day spent with old bearded men in scratchy wool uniforms and horsehair underwear!

His mom? She's got her bliss-bashing schemes too. How about a young reader's book club? Yeah, reading and writing book reports on (ugh!) Little Women, that's just how Greg wants to spend his summer break.

Next thing you know, his parents will start volunteering him for unpaid jobs around the neighborhood—like painting fences or scooping up dog doo. Anything, it seems, to get him out of the house.

But then, while joining his friend Rowley at the local country club for a splash in the pool, Greg comes up with Perfect Summer Plan No. 2: He'll lie. He'll tell his folks he got a summer job at the club! That way he can join Rowley at the pool and sip smoothies every day.

Not only that, but his crush from school, Holly, is known to show up at the club from time to time. And gazing across the pool at her blonde-haired, blue-eyed perfection could make for a pretty cool summer's respite. It ain't video games, but it ain't bad either.

Of course, there is Greg's older brother/troublemaker Rodrick to contend with. He threatens to spill the beans, blackmailing Greg into sneaking him into the club too. But Greg is sure he can keep that situation under control.

He can do this. He'll keep it all together and still have a perfect summer. I mean, come on, what else could possibly go wrong?

Positive Elements

Greg's and Rowley's parents seem, from Greg's perspective, to be rather old-fashioned and overprotective. But in the end, their concerns are all shown to be justified. In fact, we see that Susan and Frank are doing their best to connect with their son and give him a memorable summer, not a miserable one. Susan suggests to her husband, "Be the father you wished your father had been." Frank realizes the wisdom of her words and agrees to put in more time with Greg.

And lessons connected to bad behavior sink in pretty well this time around. When Rowley breaks a promise to his parents, he's devastated when they express quiet disappointment with his choice. And though Greg is surprised by Rowley's reaction, he shares some of the same feelings later when he realizes that his lies have hurt his father.

After Greg finally takes responsibility for his "screw-ups" and apologizes, he and his dad have a sincere heart-to-heart. Frank communicates his love and hopes for his boy, and shares a statement that his grandfather once passed on to him: "The man who's never made a mistake has never made anything. The trick is to learn from your mistakes." Greg and his dad find several things to bond over—including a shared dislike of a comic strip series in the newspaper.

Spiritual Content

While in the Wilderness Explorers wood-carving class, Greg's friend, Chirag, carves a small Hindu idol figurine.

Sexual Content

Teen girls lounge around the pool in bikinis. (Holly wears a one-piece suit, sometimes with a T-shirt over it.) A mishap on the diving board lands Greg in the pool without his trunks. He panics when he sees a young girl slip into the water wearing swimming goggles. And later he finds and dons a pair of pink girls' bottoms emblazoned with the word "Princess" on the back in order to make it out of the pool. (No nudity is shown.)

Greg walks through the locker room at the community pool trying not to look at all the naked, hairy, fat men walking around. (We see lots of legs and torsos, and a fair amount of a couple of backsides as their shorts slip down.) Greg's dad strips off his son's bedcovers leaving the boy lying there in nothing but a pair of boxer shorts.

Violent Content

Playing tennis, one of Holly's friends takes great pleasure in pummeling the boys with hard-served balls. Rowley gets hit in the crotch, and Greg is battered all over. Greg also falls over the net and crashes to the court. Holly's self-centered sister Heather runs over Rodrick's toe with her car tire. (The smitten Rodrick yelps, then tries to cover with cool.)

After hearing a scary story, Greg panics and mistakenly hits his dad's hand with a mallet. Greg causes a camp leader to trip, fall and accidentally set his tent on fire. Rodrick's rock 'n' roll antics with his group Löded Diper end up with him smashing an ice sculpture, overturning a chocolate fountain and otherwise destroying Heather's Sweet 16 party.

Crude or Profane Language

Name-calling includes "loser," "shrimp," "midget," "jerk," "sucker" and "wimp." We also hear one or two uses each of "heck" and "oh my god." One exclamation of "What the ...?" trails off.

Drug and Alcohol Content

None.

Other Negative Elements

There are several different categories to explore here. Issue One is narcissism. Rodrick and Heather are like two peas in a "me-me-me" pod. In fact, Greg remarks that the egocentric Heather is like "Rodrick in a dress." They both repeatedly demand that everything revolve around them. (While sensible moviegoers will instantly recognize their stereotypical behavior as negative, some fans of the series may think it's "funny" enough to emulate.)

Issue Two is lying. Greg lies over and over again about his fake summer job, among other things, mainly in hopes of avoiding anything that his parents want from him. Rowley breaks a promise. (No punishments are handed out, but both boys are eventually contrite.)

Issue Three is toilet humor. Floating diapers and peeing kids pollute the community pool—and Greg gets that realization splashed in his face. In the pool's men's locker room, the camera usually keeps our view restricted to above the waist. The exception to that rule? Two large men in swimming trunks who bend over and expose a large portion of their hairy backsides. A kid's body odor seriously impacts the last day of school. Greg's little brother uses a urinal as a sink. Greg's new dog watches him while he sits on the toilet (as do we). After that dog grabs the family dinner roast and slobbers all over it, Greg and his dad watch as the family eats the mistreated meat for dinner. Greg admits using Rowley's toothbrush to scrape dog poop off his shoe. Greg watches Rowley's dad pick his nose and wipe the findings on his robe.

Elsewhere, Rodrick fakes drowning to attract a pretty lifeguard's attention, only to be dragged out and given forceful mouth-to-mouth by a large man.

Conclusion

This third adaptation of Jeff Kinney's best-selling Diary of a Wimpy Kid graphic novels once again dumps the mishap-prone tween Greg into a series of disjunct comic situations. And once again the giggles come from bathroom humor and youthful misbehavior.

Dog Days has the least slobber on it of the batch, though. Which may say more about the rest of the series than it does about this film, because we still face fat hairy men in a locker room, Greg losing his swim trunks in the pool, kids peeing in that selfsame pool, urinal misuse, body odor gags, etc. Thankfully, though, the misbehaving antics don't all just trail off into groans and guffaws without lessons getting attached to them in Wimpy 3. Indeed, a major theme of the movie is owning your choices and mistakes, and subsequently learning from them.

Mom and Dad don't seem to be quite as clueless as they've been in the past. Greg and his dad eventually bond and learn to appreciate a great deal about each other. In fact, Greg sorta sums up his new view on his father with, "As for my dad and me, we may not always see things eye to eye, but we definitely work together as a team."

In spite of those incremental improvements, I'm still sticking to my initial impression of the whole Wimpy shtick: Kinney's stick figure books are a far more innocuous place for his hero's crazy "booger-urine-poop-fart" shenanigans than live-action movies.

Not that you can take even that as an enthusiastic endorsement of the whole idea.

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