★ ★ ★ 1/2
Starring Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Devon Bostick, Steve Zahn, Rachel Harris and Peyton List. Written by Gabe Sachs, Maya Forbes, Jeff Kinney and Wallace Wolodarsky. Directed by David Bowers. Produced by Nina Jacobson, Jeff Kinney, Jermiah Samuels and Bradford Simpson.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid returns to the big screen for its third installment this summer and is just as charming as its predecessors. The story isn't necessarily groundbreaking but it's developed well and the characters are interesting enough to make it memorable. Teenage Greg (Gordon) is just as insecure as he's always been, except this time his goal isn't to impress his classmates but his parents. His summer's at stake when his father (Zahn) takes away his video game privileges and pushes him to do the unthinkable – spend the summer outdoors. Thankfully, Rowley (Capron), being the same fun-loving kid that we met in the original, embraces being outside in the summer time and introduces Greg to the country club, which ends up being a sort of sanctuary – they lounge in the pool, have smoothies served to them and get to spend time with Ashley (List), Greg's crush who also happens to be a member. In a last ditch effort to win over his parents, Greg tells a lie which ultimately ends up causing him more pain than gain, especially when his nutty brother, Rodrick (Bostick) gets involved and a combination of embarassing events begins to slowly ruin his perfect summer.
The awkward early teen years are captured perfectly here and we're taken back to a time when it seemed like the end of the world for our parents to hijack our summer vacations and impose their own plans on us. It's also an accurate portrayal of that delicate time period where a difference in interests begins to develop between children and parents – "Let's see what's up with Amy, Beth, Meg and Jo!" says Greg's mother (Harris) in one scene, trying to get her teenage son and his friends excited about reading Little Women.
As with the original, the performances are impressive for a children's movie – Greg and Rowley go far beyond being caricatures, displaying both positive and negative traits and skillfully being able to portray inner conflict. The script isn't dumbed down for kids either – it's exagerrated tastefully, leaving parents just as invested in the movie as their children.