The 'Wimpy Kid' movies have plenty of detractors. All it takes is one look on Rotten Tomatoes to see that none of the movies in the franchise have been able to score over 51-percent. They aren't transcendent pieces of comedy by any means, but I've championed them as harmless family-friendly fare since the beginning. The third installment in the series is more of the same.
Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) is desperate to be considered cool. He over-thinks everything and it usually gets him into more trouble than he was already in. Throughout the movies, which are based on a string of young adult books written by Jeff Kinney, Greg is pictured as a hapless pre-teen who craves popularity. In the third movie, 'Dog Days', Greg finds himself moving on to his summer vacation before he begins the eighth grade. One wonders how much longer Gordon can play the role since he is quickly outgrowing it.
Greg has two goals for the summer. The first is to play as many video games as possible, and the second is to get together with his crush Holly Hills (Peyton List). Making things a little more difficult for Greg is the fact that he was only able to get half of Holly's phone number before the school year ended. If that wasn't enough, Greg is also faced with the unrealistic expectations of his father (Steve Zahn). His dad wants him to be more active during the summer, Greg wants to hibernate in the house and play video games all summer.
Out of the three movies in the franchise 'Dog Days' is the weakest. Not because it isn't enjoyable, but because it spreads itself too thin. There are too many plotlines in this movie. Not only does Greg try to get together with Holly, he also wreaks havoc at a local country club, he lies to his family about getting a job, his family gets a new dog, his father signs him up for the Wilderness Explorers, and he visits Rowley's vacation home with Rowley's wacko parents (he causes mayhem there too). Each of these subplots could have been fleshed out into their own movie. Instead, Kinney and company seem to be trying to pack as many of the storylines from the books into this movie. What happens instead is that each snippet feels like a 'Wimpy Kid' short movie, instead of a cohesive whole.
The connective thread hinges on Greg's tenuous relationship with his father. Everything else is just noise.
Even though 'Dog Days' can, and does, seem like a jumbled mess of thoughts and half-baked ideas, it's still a fun way to pass 90 minutes. What draws me to the 'Wimpy Kid' movies is how accurately they nail Greg's character and how perfectly it reflects what it was like being that age. It was easy to over-think life when it came to popularity and girls. Acting like a completely clueless doofus in seventh grade was par for the course. Sure, everything that can go wrong does go wrong in Greg's case, but many of us can put ourselves in his shoes and remember how awkward we were at that age.
Perhaps the best thing about these movies is that despite their many weaknesses, they still end up being enjoyable family fodder. Parents won't be completely bored watching them and kids, from the very young to the early teen years, will still be able to laugh at them. There are plenty of one-liners and genuinely funny situations to keep most people entertained.
The cynical critic inside of me knows I really shouldn't cut these movies as much slack as I do, but the child in me doesn't care. They make me laugh. So there.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Fox release comes in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo Pack. It's a two-disc release that has been packaged in a standard keepcase. The Blu-ray is a 50GB disc. Inside is a leaflet that contains a code for the UltraViolet Digital Copy code. There is a slipcover included. It's coded for Region A use.
Like the past two releases of the 'Wimpy Kid' movies, this one has a solid transfer. The 1080p transfer is lively and colorful. This one may even be a slight step up in terms of strong fine detail when compared to the last two.
The warm color palette is indicative of comedic movies like this. The lush greenery of grass and shrubs, along with the light blue of the country club swimming pool, are two of the many colorful highlights in this presentation. Skin tones are warm and natural. The black and white drawings provided by Jeff Kinney look fantastic.
Up close detail is striking. Pores, facial hair, and the disgusting grossness that is Greg's younger brother's blankie is perfectly rendered. Low light scenes, such as the scene where the scouts tell scary stories around a fire in the wilderness, feature inky shadows. Even in the darkness the movie still retains its attention to detail. I didn't notice any hint of banding in the gradients either. Other artifacts were kept at bay too. All in all, it's a very solid transfer from Fox.
The same DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that you've come to expect from the first two movies is alive and well here. It isn't the most amazing thing you'll hear on Blu-ray this year, simply because the movie doesn't provide for many jaw-dropping moments.
Dialogue is always clear here, even during the few whispered moments. There isn't much in the way of continuous ambient noise, but there is some. When Greg and Rowley visit the amusement park on the pier there is plenty of ambient crowd noise. The same holds true for the laid back environment of the country club and the raucous atmosphere of the last day of school.
There isn't much LFE to speak about, except when Rodrick's band Loded Diper jumps on stage and starts rocking out. The few pans that are used, like when Greg and Rowley fly from one side of the frame to the other in a death-defying carnival ride, are handled smoothly. You won't be disappointed in this audio mix.
There are much better movies out there than the 'Wimpy Kid' franchise, but I find myself appreciating them all the same. They're harmless fun. They aren't overly dumb or mean. They're simply fun movies to watch together as a family. The video and audio are as solid as ever. Like the others, this one comes with my recommendation.