They’ve wimped out. The people who made Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, that is. This dull, square follow-up to 2010’s far sprightlier Diary of a Wimpy Kid is still adapted from Jeff Kinney’s wonderful illustrated books about middle schooler Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), his family, his roly-poly pal Rowley (Robert Capron), and his strategies to survive the existential hell that is grades 6 to 8. Although the cast is the same (minus Chloë Moretz, who went on to bigger stuff, and whose character, Angie Steadman, wasn’t part of Kinney’s original novels anyway), the scriptwriters and director are different. I don’t know whether the first production team used up all the vitamins on the set, but the second team certainly demonstrates the effects of inspiration-poor blood. The whole movie unspools like a halfhearted school assignment, just going through the motions and then adding a nice binder cover. Because teachers like covers.
Greg is in seventh grade now, which he thinks is cool. A whole new class of sixth graders has arrived to be picked on. Greg’s older brother, Rodrick — he of the gnarly rock band Löded Diper — is still tormenting him, though, which is so not cool — especially because Greg has plenty to deal with, including a shy crush on a pretty new girl at school (Peyton List). The parental Heffleys, played by Steve Zahn and Rachael Harris, are about as warmly semi-dorky as they were the first time around. The bossy know-it-all show-offy girl Patty Parrell (Laine MacNeil) in Greg’s class is still a show-off.
Nothing is new, which is a problem. Nothing is particularly funny or endearing, which is a worse problem. It’s a tough day in middle school — and for the movie’s middle-school audience — when the super-nerdy Fregley (Grayson Russell) steals all the scenes of adolescent bonding. C