Movie Review: Disney Animates “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules” — barely

Really Disney?

You buy 20th Century formerly-Fox film studio for Marvel’s X-Men, “Avatar” and…remaking Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” movies on the cheap?

How cheap? Look at that shot posted above. THAT cheap.

Making the aesthetic choice to have the movie look like the kid-drawn art used to illustrate the books (and their covers) was…unfortunate.

This is third tier cable-channel for-kids level CGI 3D animation. And while one understands the need to create “new” content because that’s what this feed-the-beast pop culture demands., you’ve got to do better than this. Mining the new IP (intellectual property) that you now own is classic accountant-driven “content.”

So owning perfectly serviceable live-action “Wimpy Kid” adaptations from 10-12 years ago that you could cycle into your cable and streaming services would never do. That’s Walt Era Disney thinking, from the days when The House that Walt Built re-released animated classics every few years, cashing in on IP AND what you’d done with it –created a timeless animated masterpiece.

Home video killed that, but having your own channels and streaming services was plenty of consolation.

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules” re-imagines the bond-with/learn from Greg Heffley’s dopey, punk-band-drummer teenaged older brother Roderick, in 3D “stick” animation.

The hijinks begin with their parents leaving them on their own for a weekend, Rodrick planning a teen (“boy-girl,” as Greg’s wimpier pal who acts his age Rowley puts it) party, Greg and Rowley pitching in, only to have Rodrick trick them into the basement, locked in while the teen and his pals trash the house.

There’s an incident with little old ladies at the mall (Linda Lavin and Loretta Devine voice them), playing card games with grandpa (the late Ed Asner) and Greg making his mark at the middle school talent show.

The “learning” involves figuring out your older brother’s sensitivities, and being considerate of them, being loyal to Rowley (a running thread in these books/films) and Greg’s wimpy kid “diary” getting in the way of his dreams of status and fame.

Even if I could get past the (admittedly more-labor-intensive than it looks) cut-rate animation, this is thin entertainment.

Some marketing study must’ve told Disney that the real audience for “Wimpy Kid” content was pre-schoolers and first and second graders.

Nobody else would sit through this “Caillou/Arthur” on PBS level pablum. The lack of effort shows.

Rating: PG

Cast: The voices of Brady Noon, Hunter Dillon, Ethan William Childress, Erica Cerra, Chris Diamantopoulos, Loretta Devine, Linda Lavin and Ed Asner.

Credits: Directed by Luke Cormican, scripted by Kathleen Shugrue, based on the Jeff Kinney book. A Disney+ release.

Running time: 1:14

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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