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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules(2011)
Back in middle school after summer vacation, Greg Heffley and his older brother Rodrick must deal with their parents' misguided attempts to have them bond.
For more about Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules Blu-ray release, see Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on June 21, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Robert Capron
Director: David Bowers
» See full cast & crew
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules Blu-ray Review
Slightly wimpier than the first film.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, June 21, 2011
Last year's Diary of a Wimpy Kid took kid-lit author Jeff Kinney's stick-figure graphic novel and literally fleshed it out for a live-action adaptation that proved to be a sleeper hit with the 12-and-under crowd. The first film was a success because it genuinely captures the pre-pubescent anxiety and panic that goes along with the quest for middle school popularity. "This place is a glorified holding pen," says one character of junior high, "it's where adults put you as you make that awkward transition between child and teenager so they don't have to look at you." Yes, a smelly, hormonal holding pen, fraught with locker room embarrassments, bullying, and a social caste system that's entirely unfair. For the sequel, Rodrick Rules, the focus has shifted somewhat, from the horrors of the sixth grade to the hot-and-cold relationship between our pint-sized protagonist, Greg Heffley, and his annoying older brother, Rodrick, a would-be punk who plays in a rock band called Löded Diper. There are still plenty of middle school humiliations here, but the focus is more intently on the Heffley home life. While this could've provided fodder for a real—and funny—look at sibling rivalry and bonding, Rodrick Rules is blander than the first film, giving audiences both more and less of the same.
A year older—if not wiser or any more popular—Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) is now a bonafide seventh grader, and no longer the runt of the middle school litter. The film opens at the local skating rink for a start-of-the-school-year party, and it's here that Greg and his entourage of dweebs —the diminutive Chirag (Karan Brar), roly-poly fat kid Rowley (Robert Capron), and ginger-haired gross-out specialist Fregley (Grayson Russell)—first set eyes on the new girl, Holly Hills (Peyton List), a sweet-faced blond who's way out of their league. Greg makes a play to get Holly alone for "couple skate," but his older bro Rodrick (Devon Bostick) ruins the moment by commandeering the DJ booth and playing hardcore thrash metal, causing a ruckus that ends in Greg getting rescued from the rink by his mom (Rachael Harris) and dad (Steve Zahn). The shame! Adding to the embarrassment, Greg slips and lands face-first in a birthday cake. It's a moment that calls for the old "sad trombone" sound effect.
In his opening narration, Greg gives it to us straight: "Let me start by saying that having a brother is really overrated." Susan, Greg's overbearing advice columnist mom, notices the ever-widening rift between her two sons and proposes a solution: "Mom-Bucks." For every hour that Greg and Rodrick spend together peacefully, they're each awarded one mom-buck, redeemable in U.S. cash. With dollar signs flashing—figuratively—in his eyeliner-adorned eyes, Rodrick doles out a warning. "This mom-bucks thing is a goldmine, muchacho. Better not ruin it for me."
This setup is enough to carry the rest of the film, which plays out like a collection of only tenuously related vignettes, charting Greg and Rodrick's relationship as they drive each other crazy, bond unexpectedly, reopen old wounds, and heal again. The scattershot narrative's not a problem, per se —the source material is Greg's diary, so the film is bound to be episodic—but it doesn't help that we've seen the squabbling siblings' hijinks done better in numerous other movies. Take, for instance, the "mom and dad are away for the weekend, so let's throw a massive house party" scene, which has seemingly been done in every family comedy since the 1950s. You know the drill; mom and dad decide to come home early, and the brothers have to scramble to clean the impossibly messy house before the mini-van pulls up in the driveway. Here, Greg and Rodrick put everything back perfectly, with the exception of a vandalized bathroom door, which has to be replaced with a lockless spare from the basement. The rest of the story hinges (ba-dum-ching) on the cover-up of this switcheroo, and when the truth finally comes out about the party it jeopardizes the brothers' friendship, their mom's advice column, and Rodrick's chances of playing with his band in the "Plainview's Most Talented" contest.
"What about Rowley?" you might ask, "he was the best part of the first film." Unfortunately, the loveably naïve and enthusiastic tubster takes a back seat in the sequel. He makes good with what screen time he gets—including a magic performance-gone-hilariously-awry at the talent show, a shot at YouTube glory lip-syncing a Ke$ha song, and a great scene where he and Greg watch a scary movie together—but his character is much more tangential to the plot this time around. And if you're a Fregley fan, you're out of luck too; the unhygienic redhead shows up for a few gags, but he could be cut out of the script entirely and you probably wouldn't notice. The presence of Kick Ass' Chlöe Moretz is sorely missing as well— she doesn't reprise her role as a wise-beyond-her-years school newspaper writer—and the new character who essentially replaces her, Holly Hills, has nothing to do. She's an object for Greg's affections, and little more. What Rodrick Rules forgets is that while Greg may be the protagonist, he's probably not most kids' favorite character.
The acting is broad and goofy, and the less I say about it the better. Poor Steve Zahn is consigned to bulging out his eyes in every other scene—you half expect to hear a boi-oi-oing sound effect whenever he does it—and Rachel Harris, looking a bit like Tina Fey, is forced to do the kind of white people dancing you'd see in a Dave Chappelle sketch. It's more painful to watch than funny. Zachary Gordon is okay as Greg—he has the tough job of playing a sometimes self-possessed jerk who still manages to be likeable—but Devon Bostick wildly overplays his obnoxious older brother. I know the character is supposed to be annoying, but Bostick crosses a fine line with his big smarmy expressions and teenaged cool guy shtick. The question, as always with these kinds of films, is whether or not the intended audience will like it. That depends. Real seventh graders will probably feel too grown up for Wimpy Kid's immature antics—they're too busy racking up headshots online in Modern Warfare: Black Ops—but younger kids will be entertained by the ample poop jokes, barf gags, and overall silliness. As for parents, Rodrick Rules is hardly the endurance test other kid's movies can be, but it's not quite up to the standard set by the first entry in the series.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules Blu-ray, Video Quality
Rodrick Rules was shot in 2.35:1, where the first film was in 1.85:1, but otherwise the two films look a lot alike on Blu-ray, both sporting 1080p/AVC-encoded transfers that are generally crisp and bursting with color. Bright middle school hues are in abundance here, from primarily colored shirts and the vivid neon lights inside the skating rink, to the lush green grass on the soccer pitch and the gaudy star-spangled sequined outfits Rowley and Greg wear for the talent show. Skin tones manage to stay consistent and warm within this non-stop assault of saturation, and both black levels and contrast are just where they need to be. Everything looks pushed and boosted and stylized, but it totally works for the film's cheery, cartoonish aesthetic. (My own personal memories of middle school were a lot more drab.) Clarity is excellent as well, and there are rarely any noticeably soft shots. High definition detail is visible in every scene, most apparent in the actors' hair, skin, and clothing textures. Plopped onto a 50 GB disc with room to spare, there don't appear to be any real compression or encode issues, and the 35mm grain structure is fine and natural, with no signs of DNR or edge enhancement. Diary readers and viewers couldn't ask for much better.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Like the first film, the wimpiest part of the presentation here is the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Don't get me wrong; there are no blatant audio foul-ups—no crackling, hissing, sudden dropouts or the like—but the sound design isn't nearly as involving and immersive as it could be given all of Greg, Rowley, and Rodrick's hijinks. The rear channels are mostly consigned to a sparse supporting role, adding light ambience during certain sequences —basically, anytime there are a lot of people in a scene, like the skating rink, house party, or talent show—and providing extra room for Edward Sheamur's score, Löded Diper's crappy rock 'n' roll, and the various other songs used in the film. The music is punchy and precise, though, with better- than-expected low-end kick. What the track lacks in immersion it makes up in consistent clarity. Vocal volume seems to dip slightly on a few occasions, but dialogue is always clean and easy to understand. Along with a French Dolby Digital 5.1 dub, the disc also includes optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The first Wimpy Kid film genuinely evoked the intense emotions of middle school awkwardness, but the sequel, Rodrick Rules, doesn't quite do the same for sibling rivalry. If less inspired, it's still good fun, but only younger kids will get full enjoyment from the movie's essential silliness. Like it's predecessor, 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray release sports an excellent transfer, a solid audio track, and a few entertaining bonus features. This will be a must-own for series fans, but parents of less-fervent Wimpy Kid followers will probably want to rent the film instead.
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20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules is coming to Blu-ray on June 21st. Based on the 2011 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Award for Best Book Series, the sequel reunites the original Diary of a Wimpy Kid's young cast, ...
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