When I Grow Up, I Wanna Be Ferris Bueller
This is one franchise that continues to tickle my funny bone, without trying too hard. The third in the film series, I hope that it continues to tap onto the series of books by Jeff Kinney - seven in total as of now - before the principal cast members get fully grown up and aren't kids any more. For those who have yet to experience this simple, yet effective kids comedy, perhaps it is time to jump right in, and experience just what the appeal is.
The story leaves school for a bit, and is set during summer vacation, where every kid has plans of their own which may, and most likely, differ from their parents' expectations on how best to spend time. For Greg (Zachary Gordon) the main protagonist, it means a summer that's filled with endless computer gaming, which dad Frank (Steve Zahn) completely disapproves of, preferring that he hit the big outdoors in wilderness camp, or to take up a job somewhere to build some sense of responsibility. Then there is his crush Holly (Peyton List), who spends her time coaching junior tennis at a country club, with the only way in is as a guest of his best friend Rowley Jefferson (Robert Capron), although Rowley's family, especially his dad (Alf Humphreys), isn't really too fond of the friend of their son. And to add to that, Greg's brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick) threatens to expose Greg's cover for visiting the country club unless he gets invited himself to enjoy the facilities and to gawk at Holly's sister Heather (Melissa Roxburgh), and a new canine addition to the family.
Dog Days is pretty loaded, but these little episodes all shine in their own right, and made the entire film work. Directed by David Bowyers, who was also at the helm of the previous film, Dog Days the film taps from scenes in both The Last Straw and Dog Days books and is set primarily during vacation, which means a little bit of a pity when we don't get to see the other zany supporting characters that much, especially Greg's other schoolmates who are off to do their own thing, sporadically appearing only if they happen to be attending the same event from wilderness camp, to a book reading club started by Greg's mom. The focus gets centered mostly on family, be it Greg's or Rowley's, and takes a closer look at the father-son relationship in Greg and Frank, with the spectre of boarding school looming on the horizon should Frank decide to let someone else play the responsible role of bringing up useful folks to society.
While some may opine that Dog Days doesn't offer too much as compared to the previous Wimpy Kid films, I thought that formed part of its strength in having the cast being already so comfortable and familiar in their role, there's really no need to have them doing something too spectacular for the sake of. I mean, it's like friends hanging out, where one can have a good time all due to the presence of the other, and that's sufficient. But there's danger at being just sufficient, because familiarity may breed complacency, although the source material should be rich enough, or perhaps like this one having two books fuel a single film, for another film outing. At least it's not artificially expanded with the filmmaker's own imagination to stuff another film for additional box office revenue.
With nary a swear word nor embarrassing scenes which you have to explain to your kids thereafter, Diary of the Wimpy Kid continues to be a family and kid friendly outing that grows on you. It's funny without the reliance of the more adult comedy route of having to continuously swear or rely on nudity or slapstick to draw out laughter. Bring a kid to the screening, and I'm pretty sure they'll be entertained and tickled pink.