Disney+’s Wimpy Kid movie series keeps on rebootin’ with Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, the second such fully-animated adaptation of Jeff Kinney’s popular book series. The saga – previously adapted into four live-action films in the 2010s – finds awkward sixth grader Greg Heffley’s suburban quasi-adventures heavily featuring his slacker older brother Rodrick, who’s actually a bigger jerk than our vaguely relatable sort-of anti-hero protagonist. So maybe Greg now finds himself in the proper context to almost make us like him more, maybe.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODRICK RULES: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: Greg (Brady Noon) and Rodrick’s (Hunter Dillon) parents wanna get they f— on for their anniversary, so they’re heading into the city for the weekend and leaving the boys home alone. This is a terrible idea, but you do what you gotta do, right? Greg yearns to be closer to his big brother, hoping some of Rodrick’s cool-kid moxie might rub off on him. Most reasonable people would consider Rodrick an anti-role model: He’s lazy, he’s a lousy student and his every word and action is, if not full-on jerkish, at the very least jerk-adjacent. He also did what almost zero teenagers do in 2022: Formed a rock band. He’s a drummer. The band’s name is Loded Diper. They’re heavier than Motley Crue but not as heavy as Metallica. So that makes them… Nickelbackish? No. Iron Maidenlike? Nah. WASPy? Yeah. They’re heavy like WASP!
I digress. Greg is not reasonable, and that’s a direct result of his desire to be a cool kid instead of a you-know-what-because-it’s-right-there-in-the-title. He’d like Rodrick to teach him all the cheats and shortcuts he uses to half-ass his way through life. But before that happens, Rodrick decides to do what every teenager does when Mom and Dad are gone: Throw a major rager. Greg is apprehensive, but goes along with it, hoping it’ll amp up his cool factor. Of course, Greg’s naive Milhouse of a pal Rowley (Ethan William Childress) shows up, and also of course, Rodrick locks them in the basement, preventing them from participating in all the skateboarding, vinyl-record-playing, pizza-eating and non-booze-drinking that’s going on.
Such is the first episode in this collection of vignettish things loosely tied together by Greg and Rodrick’s contentious brothership, which might cease to exist without all the blackmail threats. There’s a rush to clean up the house after their parents cut their mini-vacay short, a trip to Grandpa’s (Ed Asner) to play board games, a mishap in the ladies room of Grandpa’s retirement home, a last-minute school science project, and a talent show, all fodder to help strengthen their brotherly bond – if they can ever stop despising each other, that is.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: There are almost as many Instances Involving Underpants in this movie as you’d find in any Captain Underpants endeavor.
Performance Worth Watching: Shout out to the late, great Ed Asner as Greg’s grandpa, one of his final roles before his passing in 2021.
Memorable Dialogue: A snatch of script representative of the movie’s humor level: Greg (into a heavily reverbed P.A. system): “SOMEBODY FARTED!”
Sex and Skin: None.
Our Take: Rodrick Rules churns up two decent laughs: One, when the ladies-room mishap finds Greg earning the nickname Boy’s Size Small. And the other one is Loded Diper’s signature song, “Can You Smell Us Now,” which might’ve been a novelty Headbanger’s Ball hit in 1991. Otherwise, this Wimpy Kid outing is 74 minutes of Just Fine And Nothing More. The franchise’s young fans will find it acceptably watchable, a response Disney will use to justify pushing another one of these into production if it hasn’t already. (I’ll wager a nickel it’s already underway.)
You can ding Rodrick Rules for being more blatantly sentimental than its almost refreshingly cynical 2021 predecessor – or give it props for crafting a more coherent overarching thematic narrative about the rocky/respectful love/hate relationship between brothers. Some might find the dynamic familiar, with one foot in real life and the other in the type of crudely honed hyperbole that middle-schoolers find amusing. But no right mind would ever accuse it of being insightful, which is something this movie might find insulting. We’ve already burdened it with a “coherent overarching thematic narrative,” so enough already, and let’s just sit back and hope Loded Diper cuts “Somebody Farted” for the B-side of “Can You Smell Us Now.”
Our Call: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules firmly meets low-ish expectations for this series/franchise (anyone out there giddy with anticipation for this? Anyone? Bueller?). So STREAM IT I guess, even if it doesn’t do much beyond being a placeholder for some Disney IP.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.