Last spring’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” caught me by surprise. Not only was it not painful, but it was genuinely funny — arguably the best family film of the past decade.
Given its success, a sequel was inevitable. Given how quickly its stars are aging, however, a sequel was also rushed. The one-year-later result is “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules.” While it’s still enjoyable and full of goodwill, the quick production schedule shows in the seams.
Whereas the original focused on Greg Hefley’s (Zachary Gordon) jump into middle school and re-evaluating his friendship with his chubby, clueless best bud, Rowley (Robert Capron), the follow-up focuses on Greg’s ongoing rivalry with his older, bad-boy brother, Rodrick (Devon Bostick), wannabe rock star. Tired of their constant bickering, Mom (Rachael Harris) bribes them to get along via a rewards system she terms “Mom Bucks.”
And so begins a series of scenes that play like loose sketches rather than a full story. Director David Bowers (“Astro Boy”) brings all of the charm but little of the comedic spark that Thor Freudenthal did the first time around. Often, “Rodrick Rules” feels not like a full-fledged feature, but a made-for-TV version, where the timing just didn’t make the leap along with the cast. And no offense to Bostick, who is fine, but the overall proceedings suffer from Capron being downgraded in screen time.
Still, this second round of misadventures for the “Wimpy Kid” doesn’t leave you checking your watch or wishing it ill will. For movies targeted to tots and tweens, that’s saying something. —Rod Lott