DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS
During his summer vacation, "Wimpy Kid" Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), the hero of the phenomenally successful book series, hatches a plan to pretend he has a job at a ritzy country club - which fails to keep him away from the season's dog days, including embarrassing mishaps at a public pool and a camping trip that goes horribly wrong.
Review by Louise Keller:
Learn from your mistakes is the theme of this endearing third film in the franchise in which the awkward, tumultuous highs and lows of pubescence continue. This time, in the adaptation of cartoon illustrator Jeff Kinney's popular books, dorky tween Gregg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) faces the dreaded summer holidays, when parental expectations counter his fun-filled dreams of non-stop video games and a flirtation with the prettiest girl in the class.
With its animated cartoon sequences as a backdrop to the action, the narrative is again a reflection of the tortured reality of a youngster battling parental authority, acceptance by his peers and surviving the torments of his would-be rock-star older brother.
Horrified when his father (Steve Zahn) makes it clear the summer holidays are to comprise of a daunting mix of outdoor activities and a holiday job, Gregg finds himself twisting the truth so he can soak up the sun, slurp down the smoothies and impress pretty Holly (Peyton List) at the Country Club as guest of his best friend Rowley (Robert Capron).
With his pudding cut hairdo and chubby good-nature, Capron is once again the most endearing presence, while Devon Bostick as Rodrick, Gregg's wild, rubber-faced nightmare of a brother, is very funny. As Greg pretends he can play tennis to impress Holly, Rodrick hangs around drooling after Holly's uppity older sister Heather (Melissa Roxburgh), who is about to turn Sweet Sixteen.
One of the film's funniest moments comes when Rodrick feigns drowning in the pool, in the hope that Heather, sitting in the life-guard chair will rescue him. The resulting mouth to mouth by a large bald man with a moustache is definitely not what he is expecting
Kinney excels at describing the painfully self-conscious moments as Gregg walks a tight rope of uncertainty, riding dizzy heights of a roller-coaster called the Cranium Shaker, followed by the dramatic loss of his bathers, when a high-dive meant to impress, nose dives leaving him only with fingers like prunes. There's a rather silly civil war re-enactment, an equally unconvincing 'reading is fun club', a failed fishing expedition and an involved wilderness camp.
By the way, the film gets its name from Sweetie, the dog who is part of the chaotic family environment. His moment comes when he is thrown the family roast in an attempt to distract him from chewing Gregg's younger brother's security blanket. Of course, Mum must not know, so the saliva is quickly wiped away.
Gordon seems to have developed more comfortably into the role since the last film and all the kids are exceptionally good. Not withstanding David Bowers' decision to make the parents (Steve Zahn and Rachael Harris) caricatures, I am disappointed to see the talented Zahn in a thankless role such as this. Nonetheless, Wimpy Kid 3 delivers on its own terms and is a wry and humour-filled look at those awkward years that seem in hindsight to fly by only too fast.
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DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS (PG)
CAST: Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Rachael Harris, Robert Capron, Steve Zahn
PRODUCER: Nina Jacobson, Brad Simpson
DIRECTOR: David Bowers
SCRIPT: Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky (book by Jeff Kinney)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Anthony B. Richmond
EDITOR: Troy Takaki
MUSIC: Edward Shearmur
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Brent Thomas
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 20, 2012