Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days Blu-ray Review
Family entertainment has come a long way since the “Leave it to Beaver” era. Even in our jaded, violence and sex saturated, desensitized society, the family film is still one of the biggest cash cows Hollywood has in its repertoire due to the everlasting and unquenchable thirst kids have for entertainment. And to their credit, studios have been able to evolve with the times to meet that need. Big wigs like Disney/Pixar and Fox have for the most part kept pace with younger generations by hiring writers who understand the more mature tone and sense of humor held by today’s teens and tweens. Fox’s successful “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series is able to capitalize on that model, but also mixing in some more traditional and harmless tomfoolery that parents can sign off on as well.
Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon, BUBBLE GUPPIES) has his summer vacation cup runneth over with playing video games and attempting to hang out with his jr. high crush Holly Hills (Peyton List, JESSIE) while hopefully maintaining the comfort and quarters of his living room. The only wrench in Greg’s plan for the perfect summer is his dad’s (Steve Zahn, TREME) desire for his son to be more like the neighbor’s kids and get involved in outdoor activities. As Greg and his dad try to outmaneuver each other, they discover they may have more in common than previously thought.
This film humorously, yet appropriately portrays how the world sometimes looks through the eyes of a pre teen introvert, emphasizing common situations as extremely nerve-racking and uncomfortable. Unfortunately, that line of illustration is only used at the very beginning of the film and quickly gradients into the more “wacky” comedic scenarios that are common to this series, adding to the overall disjointed feeling of a plot without a true center story arc. The DOG DAYS installment plays out more like three 30-minute television episodes woven together than it does a cohesive feature film.
The performances are very good considering how stereotypical most of the characters are treated in the script. Even though he’s quickly growing up, Zachary Gordon is still believable as the meek and weak-kneed around girls Greg. Gordon has been able to convincingly mature his character while retaining the constant uneasiness and anxious qualities that make him so relatable. Steve Zahn, who once again plays Greg’s dad Frank, is equally proficient as a parent who is unknowingly falling into the same pot holes raising his kids that he resented as a child himself. In fact, the script probably focuses too much on Frank and not enough on the main protagonist Greg.
Like its predecessors, DOG DAYS is still a very enjoyable family film. And despite its plentiful plot structure troubles it easily relates its core audience, especially the kids who have literally transitioned through their own “awkward” years with the “Wimpy” series of books and movies. If the series is able to survive and maintain its cast for another film, hopefully the writers will be able to continue the maturation of Greg with a more focused effort on the inherently funny tribulations of a kid on the precipice of entering high school and less background noise from manufactured comedy inserted for nothing more than a cheap laugh.
Video: (2.35:1 Widescreen, 1080p/AVC MPEG-4) The visuals of the film are extremely vivid and sharp as would be expected from a modern day digitally recorded film. However this transfer might even go a step farther in terms of treatment for a “kid” or “family” film. The black levels are very inky and the detail on the actor’s faces is striking, especially in the close-ups.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) As it is for any film that doesn’t rely on big explosions or special effects, the dialogue is always front and center. And this mix does a very fine job making sure every word is clean and crisp, even in the low registries.
Director’s Commentary: Director David Bowers does a fine job with this commentary, but overall this movie just doesn’t lend itself to very interesting behind-the-scenes material.
Class Clown Animated Comic (3 min): An animated short where Greg attempts to win the title of “class clown.” These minimal, doodle-style inspired cartoons do add to the story of the film when integrated, but as a stand-alone piece they are not very entertaining.
Gag Reel (5 min): At worst, gag reels are moderately funny, but this one shines because of Steve Zahn, who is one of the most underrated comic actors in film today.
Deleted Scenes (10 min): Usually deleted scenes are always labeled as such for very good reason, but every once in a while there’s an edited scene with a THE ABYSS (1989) quality that would have actually added depth to the story. Now these scenes are nowhere as intricate and important as the one from that film, but they do have a relative effect to the DOG DAYS plot.
The first is a laugh-out-loud scene with Frank, Greg’s dad, which explains the real reason he’s motivated to get a family dog, and the second is an alternative ending that better ties up the story by Greg and his dad once again “hating” on the comic strip they can’t stop reading.
Fox Movie Channel Presents ‘Wimpy’ Empire (10 min): A tedious reel of promos and interviews that serve no real entertainment purpose.
Trailer – Theatrical Trailer