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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days(2012)
School is out and Greg is ready for the days of summer, when all his plans go wrong.
For more about Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days Blu-ray release, see Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on December 19, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Zachary Gordon, Steve Zahn, Rachael Harris, Peyton List, Robert Capron, Devon Bostick
Director: David Bowers
» See full cast & crew
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days Blu-ray Review
School's out for summer.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, December 19, 2012
The first Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie—based on kid-lit author Jeff Kinney's stick-figure graphic novel series—was surprisingly adept at comically recreating the anxiety and pressure of being a pre-pubescent middle schooler jockeying for popularity. The second film, Rodrick Rules, wasn't quite as good, but still delivered some funny insights about sibling rivalry and affection. And now we have a third entry, the sequelitis-afflicted Dog Days, which is all-around less cohesive and less funny than its predecessors, with a story that darts and zags and splits and never settles into a singular theme.
I wouldn't be surprised if this were the last Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie, and for more reasons than one. Fourteen- year-old star Zachary Gordon must've hit a growth spurt sometime after Rodrick Rules—he's still wimpy, but he hardly looks like a "kid" anymore. I half expected his voice to drop an octave mid-film. Perhaps recognizing that the series can't go on forever, director David Bowers and screenwriters Wallace Wolodarsky and Maya Forbes have crammed Dog Days with slapstick sight gags and given the story a few too many episodic adventures and subplots. The narrative is all over the place, playing like a series of semi-connected sitcom episodes.
With the end of the school year approaching, seventh grader Greg Heffley's family kicks off summer with a trip to the crowded community swimming pool. We know what sort of film we're in for when—within the first five minutes—we get jokes about the awkwardness of old naked dudes in the locker room, see baby brother Manny wash his hands with a urinal cake, and cringe along with Greg as several toddlers pee determinedly in the shallow end. The series has always had a fondness for gross-out humor—the kind of stuff kids cackle at while grownups roll their eyes and bide their time—and Dog Days is no different.
Greg wants to do two things with his vacation, 1.) play video games from dawn to dusk—in a montage of the first day of break, we see him grow glassy-eyed and feral in front of the television—and 2.) become "more than just friends" with pretty blonde classmate Holly (Peyton List), who's all lined up with a summer job as a tennis instructor. There are obstacles to both aims; Greg's Civil War-obsessed dad (Steve Zahn) wants him to spend more time outside, and when Holly begins to write her phone number in Greg's yearbook, she's interrupted mid-pen-stroke and leaves off the last three digits. Aren't these kids on Facebook, you ask? Don't they have cell-phones. Apparently not, although Greg's parents do give him a "starter phone" with two buttons instead of a keypad. One calls home, the other 9-1-1. The indignity.
In a bit of killing-two-birds-with-one-stone fortuity, Greg's roly-poly ginger best friend, Rowley (Robert Capron)—whose parents are richer than the Heffleys—gives him a guest pass to the posh country club where Holly just happens to be giving lessons. Greg gets to be outside and spend some face-time with his would-be girl, but he takes his luck too far when he lies to his dad, claiming he got a job at the club to get out of a boring internship at Mr. Heffley's office. The father/son uncomfortableness between the two is one of the main thrusts of the film, and it might've been developed into something meaningful had the story not insisted on splaying out in all directions.
Dog Days follows one summertime tangent after another, and while they're all loosely tied into the main plot, the film begins to feel helter-skelter and unfocused. The Heffley family gets a dog to better teach the kids responsibility. Teenaged bro Roderick (Devon Bostick) learns to love the country club life, pining after a lifeguard who doesn't reciprocate his feelings. Greg goes off on vacation with Rowley and his folks, who collectively share ice cream cones, play a game called "I Love You Because...," and are generally touchy-feely to the extent of being weird. There's a botched Civil War reenactment, a ride on the "Cranium Shaker," a diving board mishap—resulting in some accidental skinny-dipping—and a "Wilderness Weekend" with a Boy Scouts-type troupe, where Greg hopes to impress his dad enough to avoid being sent to the Spag Union all-boys military academy. You can say this for the movie—it rarely has a dull moment, and it does occasionally capture the spastic what trouble are we going to get into today quality of having three months of free time on your hands and no real responsibilities.
One thing the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series as a whole does well—particularly because Zachary Gordon is so perfect for his role—is that it represents its main character as a real middle school-aged kid, who makes mistakes, lets down his parents, gets embarrassed, and betrays his friends, but is still likable and basically good. That's not an easy balance to strike, and Dog Days once again gets it right. Steve Zahn is (mostly) good too, and seeing him here makes you wish he appeared in better, more grownup films. (Remember how good he was in Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn?) The less we say about Devon Bostick's hammy psuedo-hipster Rodrick, though, the better; I get that the character is supposed to be annoying, but listening to him launch into a pop-punk version of Justin Bieber's "Baby" was too much to handle.
If you're old enough to remember when The Backstreet Boys were the boy idols du jour—let alone the New Kids on the Block—Dog Days will be a tedious, mostly obnoxious experience. The movie will play at least moderately well, however, with its target demographic of kids a few years younger than those in the story. If nothing else, the franchise makes a decent preparatory guide to the perils of middle school.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days Blu-ray, Video Quality
If you're familiar with the Blu-ray releases of the first two films, you'll know exactly what to expect here—a 1080p/AVC- encoded presentation that's bright and cheery and bursting with color. Vivid primaries. Intense sky blues. Crisp greens. Skin tones remain balanced, fortunately—it'd be easy for them to veer into too-ruddy territory given how saturated everything else is—and contrast is tight, delivering a punchy summertime image. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is shot on 35mm, and Dog Days' picture looks fully filmic, with a thin layer of unobtrusive grain, untouched by noise reduction or edge enhancement. There are two or three noticeably softer shots—I'm thinking of the scene on the "Cranium Cracker," where a smaller digital camera was probably mounted to the roller coaster—but clarity is generally strong, with defined facial features and visible textures in clothing. And placed on a dual-layer disc with plenty of room, there are no obvious compression issues to report. Another great-looking Wimpy Kid disc from 20th Century Fox.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The film's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is a bit on the wimpy side, although there are no flagrant audio foul-ups here—no drop-outs, hisses, crackles, or pops. The mix is perfectly functional, focusing on clean, balanced dialogue that's always easy to understand. Where it falls slightly short is the lack of engagement from the rear speakers, which are underutilized even the most intense, action-heavy scenes. They pip up on occasion for quiet ambience—school hall clamor, outdoorsy noises, the carnival at the boardwalk—and they add some dimension to Edward Shearmur's score and the various pop-rock-ish songs that complement the onscreen action, but there are very few directional effects in this decidedly front- anchored mix. The disc also includes several dub and subtitles options—see above for details—along with an English descriptive audio track. There are even English and Italian subtitles for the director's commentary track.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The first Diary of a Wimpy Kid film? Surprisingly smart for its kid-comedy sub-genre. The second one? Not quite as good, but still decent family-friendly entertainment. Dog Days? Another step down, quality-wise, but it'll probably appeal to the target late-grade-school audience. (Let's hope 20th Century Fox calls it quits here, or next year we might be watching a newly gawky Zachary Gordon primp his peach-fuzz mustache in the school bathroom for an hour and a half.) Like the previous movies, Dog Days makes a solid showing on Blu-ray, with a colorful high definition transfer and a few fun special features.
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