Stream or skip? +2023

Disney+‘s cowardly child Film series is restarted again and again Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, the second fully animated adaptation of Jeff Kinney’s popular book series. The saga – previously adapted into four live-action films in the 2010s – finds the suburban quasi-adventures of bumbling sixth-grader Greg Heffley heavily influenced by his lazy older brother Rodrick, who’s actually a bigger jerk than our vague relatable antihero protagonist. So maybe Greg now finds himself in the right context to almost make us like him more, maybe.

The essentials: Greg (Brady Noon) and Rodrick’s (Hunter Dillon) parents want to have fun for their wedding anniversary, so they head into town for the weekend and leave the boys at home alone. It’s a terrible idea, but you’re doing what you have to do, right? Greg longs to be closer to his big brother in hopes that some of Rodrick’s cool moxie might rub off on him. Most sane people would view Rodrick as an anti-role model: he’s lazy, he’s a lousy student, and his every word and action is, if not outright idiotic, at least idiotic. He also did what almost zero teenagers do in 2022: start a rock band. He’s a drummer. The band’s name is Loded Diper. They are heavier than Motley Crue but not as heavy as Metallica. So that’s what she does… Nickelbackish? no Like Iron Maiden? nope Wasp? Yes. They are heavy like WASP!

I digress. Gregory is Not reasonable, and that’s a direct result of his desire to be a cool boy instead of a you-know-what-because-it-is-right-there-in-the-title. He wants Rodrick to teach him all the tricks and shortcuts he uses to make his way through life. But before that happens, Rodrick decides to do what every teenager does when Mom and Dad are away: throw a big tantrum. Greg is concerned but goes along with it, hoping it will add to his cool factor. Of course, Greg’s naïve Milhouse sidekick, Rowley (Ethan William Childress), shows up, and of course Rodrick locks her in the basement to prevent her from participating in all that skateboarding, vinyl-playing, pizza-eating, and all the booze-drinking that is going.

This is the first episode in this collection of vignetting things loosely connected through Greg and Rodrick’s controversial brotherhood that might have ceased to exist if it weren’t for all the blackmail threats. There’s a rush to clean up the house after her parents call off their short vacation, a trip to Grandpa’s (Ed Asner) house to play board games, a mishap in the powder room at Grandpa’s retirement home, a last-minute science school project, and a talent show , all fodder to strengthen their brotherly bond — if they can ever stop despising each other.

Photo: Disney+

Which movies will it remind you of?: There are almost as many instances involving underpants in this film as in any other captain underpants make an effort.

Notable performance: Say hello to the late, great Ed Asner as Greg’s grandpa, one of his final roles before his death in 2021.

Memorable dialogue: A snippet from the script representative of the film’s humor: Greg (into a heavily reverberant PA system): “SOMEBODY FARTED!”

gender and skin: none.

Our opinion: Rodrick rules gets two decent laughs: First, when the mishap in the ladies’ room earned Greg the nickname Boy’s Size Small. And the other is Loded Diper’s signature song “Can You Smell Us Now,” which may have been a first Headbanger Ball Hit in 1991. Otherwise this cowardly child Excursion is 74 minutes Just Fine And Nothing More. The franchise’s young fans will find it acceptable, a response Disney will use to justify putting another one into production if it hasn’t already. (I’ll bet a nickel it’s already underway.)

You can ring Rodrick rules for being more unabashedly sentimental than its almost refreshingly cynical 2021 predecessor — or giving it the props to create a more coherent, overarching thematic narrative about the rocky/respectful love/hate relationship between brothers. Some may find the dynamic familiar, with one foot in real life and the other in the kind of crudely polished hyperbole that middle school students find amusing. But no sane mind would ever accuse him of revealing what this film might find offensive. We’ve already burdened it with a “coherent, overarching thematic narrative,” so enough, let’s just sit back and hope Loded Diper cuts “Somebody Farted” for the B-side of “Can You Smell Us Now.”

Our appeal: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules lives up to the low expectations of this series/franchise (anyone out there with anticipation? anyone? Bueller?). So STREAM IT I guess, even if it doesn’t do much more than being a placeholder for some Disney IPs.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more about his work below

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