Though I try my best to forget my own middle school experience, it certainly wasn't as perilous or fraught with danger as Greg Heffley's days are, but there were a few menacing encounters I'd like to erase from my mind. I mostly remember middle school as a sort of limbo where you went to wait for high school. Three years of sitting around, waiting. Middle school is just an awkward time for all kids, no matter who they are. Then puberty strikes, multiplying the awkwardness by infinity. I see where Greg Heffley's coming from. Middle school sucks.
Greg, played by Zachary Gordon (who reminds me of a young Fred Savage), finds himself on the precipice of graduating from elementary school, heading to the dreaded middle school. His horrible brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick) tries to scare Greg into believing that middle school is some sort of hell for under-sized peons like himself. Turns out Rodrick is right. Greg's best friend, and by far the best part of the movie, is Rowley Jefferson (Robert Capron). Rowley is a plucky, portly, red-haired kid who hasn't really grown up yet. Greg has a decision to make. Does he keep his nerdy friend Rowley around? Or does he ditch him in order to climb the social ladder of the school. A ladder where Greg places himself around number 19, but soon plummets like a rock.
Based on the best-selling book series by Jeff Kinney, 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' is a funny look into what it takes to survive middle school, and teaches some life lessons while it's at it. See, even though Greg is our protagonist, he goes about things in all the wrong ways. He schemes and connives ways to make himself popular, which backfire horribly. He tries joining the school safety club, which he finds out is social suicide. He tries wrestling, only to find out that "wimpy" really does describe how well he is at fighting. All the while, his happy-go-lucky friend Rowley patiently waits by his side without a care in the world.
'Diary' is full of the same groups and cliques we've become used to when watching movies about adolescence. Kids are mean for no particular reason. People hate other people just because of what they look like (sadly for some people this kind of thing never changes as they grow older). There's a slice of cheese that's been lying on the ground of the basketball court, outside, for years. It has grown mold on it, and no one dares to touch it lest they get "the cheesetouch!" Touching the cheese would certainly seal anyone's fate to a life of social exile. It's funny how things like this mattered when we were that age. Maybe it wasn't cheese, but there was always something that was used to ostracize the unfortunate and less popular.
'Diary' is very well acted. Zachary Gordon is a genuinely funny kid with perfect comedic timing and Robert Capron steals the show with his portrayal of Rowley.
I liked 'Diary' for a lot of reasons. It's not dumbed down for its audience. It assumes the pre-teen demographic will understand what it's trying to say without coming out and just saying it. It assumes parents will remember their own harrowing days of middle school, causing them the cringe a little bit. Maybe it will help them understand what their kids are going through when they set off for school every day. It truly is a jungle out there. Just hope your kid isn't the one that comes home with the Cheesetouch.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' comes to Blu-ray as "The Cheesiest Edition." It comes complete with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc, DVD, and Digital Copy (DVD and Digital Copy are separate discs). It also comes with a nifty slipcover that contains a six-page diary entry from Rowley.
Fox's 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' 1080p transfer is a product of the way it was shot, which in the end doesn't lend itself to the most stunning looking high-def transfer.
It appears the entire film was filmed with a diffuse filter, making bright whites produce halos around faces, windows, and lights. Softer focus techniques lend a whimsical feel to the movie, but also hamper the ability to see fine detail on the faces and textures populating it. Skintones occasionally take on orange hues. Colors are strong, reds especially, are very bold. Darker scenes, as when Greg and Rowley are out on Halloween night, are nicely rendered, with strong shadows that don't swallow up the characters.
Most of the fine detail can be found in the crude line animation inspired by Jeff Kinney's original drawings. The stark pencil lines are completely visible. We're able to see all the nuances of pencil and paper and how it doesn't actually fill in every tiny space.
There's nothing technically wrong or amiss with 'Diary's transfer. Source noise is non-existent, artifacts are no where to be seen. Overall, it looks exactly the way it's supposed to look. It's just that the original filming techniques never end up showing off much detail or giving us the high-definition pop we're used to. This isn't the fault of the transfer, just that the softer focus, diffused look of 'Diary' isn't something that we could call demo-quality eye candy. For fans of the film though, this is exactly the way the movie is meant to be seen, so you should be very happy with the way it turned out on Blu-ray.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation has a more subdued feel to it and doesn't have the lively atmosphere I expected from a movie about a crowded middle school.
Surround channels give off some nice ambient noise during a rain storm and in the crowded halls, but there are other times when they're oddly quite, like during cafeteria scenes. Directionality works well. During a scene where they are getting ready for a play a kid dressed as a bush is playing a Nintendo DS (I think) that is beeping and buzzing. When he's seen in the middle of the screen, the videogame sound effects come through the center channel clearly. As soon as the camera shifts its angle, the gaming sounds move slightly off screen to the side speaker
There's not really much need for an overload of LFE, except when Rodick is rocking out with his buddies. Intense scenes where foreboding doom awaits, as when a car full of neighborhood bullies approaches, bass kicks in with a low and pleasant rumble. Dialog comes through the front channels nicely for the most part. There are moments when Rowley whispers a few lines of dialog at the end of his scenes that are extremely hard to hear, but over all this is an effective audio presentation.
'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' is a light-hearted and funny tale about middle school. It's a movie that parents can enjoy with or without their kids around. There's enough clever humor to entertain them, while the slapstick humor will keep the kids entertained. The video and audio are solid, but they won't blow you away. There's a decent helping of extras, but it would have helped if they were a little bit more organized. All in all, this disc comes recommended.