Now here's the deal on the previous Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies. I've had a mixed reaction to all of them. The first one I think is my favourite, perhaps because it has a fair introduction and twists the Greg and Rowley friendship to be a bit purer than in the novel version. Rodrick Rules is one of my least favourite books in the franchise, and it's also my least favourite movie, primarily because there are too many embarrassment scenes that cause the film as a whole tough to watch. But I appreciated its willingness to do the same in friendship status to Greg and Rodrick, especially the end when Greg decides that despite what Rodrick did to him in an earlier scene he'll do what it takes so his older brother can perform. Actually, come to think of it, all of the Diary films, including The Long Haul, centre on Greg and one of the secondary protagonists. In the third movie, it was his dad, and I enjoyed Dog Days, especially since Fregley the weirdo helps out the main characters during a small camp mission and I felt misery when his dad was disappointed with Greg on a lie and theft. What I think director David Bowers did best with the franchise, though, is give a good relationship between Greg and Holly, introduced in the second film when he stepped in. The two of them feel like normal friends, one uncool and having an unrequited crush, the other popular and never looks down on any of the less cool. But she's not in this film. It's a road comedy for the Heffley family and how awkward would that be if she were invited?
So now onto the actual review. This time, Greg is in conflict with his mom, who wants to have the perfect family road trip. In her eyes though, perfect is the same as before cellphones and computers were invented: no electronics, just talking, looking at the view, and reading books. Everyone else in the family, including the husband and father Frank, disagree and refuse to accept the idea. But they have 4 days to get to their Meemaw's 90th birthday and have 47 hours and 1 minute of road to travel. And Greg at the same time is trying to get to an expo to save his reputation and his senses from his mom's brainwashing. What could possibly...I'm not going to finish that, you know what I was gonna say.
I have a lot to say about this film, which tempts me to give it a higher grade but here we go. I was completely fine with the fact they chose an actor who was Zachary Gordon's age when the first film was shot, even though technically Greg's supposed to be going into eighth grade. Aging was what caused a replacement to be in order. And I was fine with Wright as Rodrick, fine with a little variety on his character, though I admit sometimes he seems to be overacting. Either way, I hope to see Wright in more films so his career can really take off before it abruptly ends. Alicia Silverstone, Tom Everett Scott, Owen Aszlatos and the Walters twins were all just fine replacements of the old characters and if there's more movies with them, I'll have no problem.
Now for my criticism on the actual story. Even though I love books so much I've adapted to having no motion sickness when I read in the car on long road trips, I understood entirely how Greg and Rodrick felt to have their electronics banned. I'd be pissed. Would you be? Ironically, despite the fact there's no Wi-fi on this trip, I felt a connection. As a result, they turn kind of rebellious, stealing any chance to disobey Mom when they can, like when they have to grocery shop.
And I have a confession to make. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, the book version, is my favourite book of the series, primarily because it's screwy, exciting and horrifically fun. And maybe my praise comes from the fact it's better than all the others. The movie version is obviously quite similar, but I guess some things make the book more enjoyable than the movie. There's this carnival food called Deep Fried Butter on a Stick and not many things in life gross me out but that one makes me gag every time, never fails. And some of the gross-out humour in this movie's not that enjoyable to watch. And during a climax of the movie, I feel like logically the Heffleys would be a little more sneaky than they were and I guess the book is filled with jokes and for it to be a movie you have to stretch the jokes and add extra story. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.
Still, I could get through the gross-out humour because I cared about if the Heffley's would be able to reach their destination, if Greg was going to reach his objectives and if the family would ever get along. And there's a scene that has Greg at the centre of embarrassment. This time, it was a lot of fun to watch. Not to mention there's a great one-shot of the world's worst restaurant. I'm totally not kidding.
This is a pretty good and underrated update to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, especially for a complete reboot. Greg and his mom both learn lessons in this film, and I hope the filmmakers have learned a lesson too: let's get Greg in 8th grade, Rodrick in college, Manny in school, and eventually Greg in college. That I'd love to see, something Jeff Kinney unwisely doesn't do in his books.