Wimpy Kids Need Moms: 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days'

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days begins as seventh grade ends and starts summer vacation, with Greg hoping -- like all kids in all movies that start this way -- that this one will be the best ever.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

Director: David Bowers
Cast: Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Devon Bostick, Steve Zahn, Peyton List, Rachael Harris
Rated: PG
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Year: 2012
US date: 2012-08-03 (General release)
UK date: 2012-08-03 (General release)

When you're a wimpy kid, you want to be a less wimpy kid, or least appear to be a less wimpy kid. This is the premise of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and movies, all of which feature the narration of the titular boy, Greg (Zachary Gordon), as he observes and tries to control what goes on around him.

The third movie, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, begins as seventh grade ends and starts summer vacation, with Greg hoping -- like all kids in all movies that start this way -- that this one will be the best ever. For Greg, best means that he'll play videogames all day, every day. All he has to do, he explains as the film provides the series' signature stick-figures-on-diary-paper animations, is "stay a step ahead" of his father Frank (Steve Zahn) and mom Susan (Rachael Harris).

Greg being a wimpy kid, nothing goes as he plans. His effort to stay a step ahead takes place on two fronts, as Susan starts a Book Club for the neighborhood children (first up: Little Women) and Frank appears determined to get Greg and his friends to play outdoors. To avoid such obligations and, more importantly, to pursue his still-hoped-for romance with the lovely Holly (Peyton List) (which was initiated at the end of the second movie, 2011's Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules), Greg trails along with his longtime best friend Rowley (Robert Capron) to The Country Club. Here, again, following on discoveries he made last year, he discovers the pleasures of the private pool as compared to the public one his family frequents (less crowding, smoothies delivered on a tray, and no unruly children peeing in the water) and tries his hand at tennis, which leads to his getting bopped in the head or other body parts repeatedly.

The tennis is a contrivance to spend time with Holly, who teaches at the club, though a few short minutes after he takes to the court, he must admit he doesn’t know how to play. Here the film pictures one of its primary lessons, that when you're busted for lying, you should admit it, by inserting parodic slow-motion close-ups of Holly instructions to Greg. If only this were enough for him to learn. But no, he must continue to lie, and be busted, in order to fill the film's running time with busy non-plot material.

Greg's lies take much the same shape as his lies in previous movies. First, he and his older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostwick) lie to their parents. In order to avoid working at his dad's office, Greg tells Frank he has a job at the club, and when Rodrick guesses this isn't true, he blackmails Greg into getting him inside the club too. This so that he can do what Greg is doing, pant after a girl, in Rodrick's case, Holly's cartoonishly affected sister Heather (Melissa Roxburgh) -- who just happens to need a band for her upcoming 16th birthday party. (Rodrick, I'm sure you'll remember, sings in a group called Loded Diper: here, he ably lampoons Justin Bieber's "Baby").

And second, Greg and his dad lie to Susan. This constitutes some awfully standard issue wimpy-kids-will-be-wimpy-kids shtick, but it also grants father and son more time on screen together. That's all to the good, as Zahn is easily the series' most entertaining element. Here, Frank is no longer only red-faced and sputtering. Now, he reads Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States (a detail that comes up more than once and that you're left to interpret as you will). And now, he's granted a backstory, as Susan instructs him pointblank to "Be the father you wish you'd had" (which passes as the Diary of a Wimpy Kid's version of cultural critique).

Just so, Frank drags Greg along on a series of man-making activities -- a fishing trip, a Civil War reenactment, and a camping trip with dad's old Wilderness Explorers troop. That this experience isn't nearly so fortifying as he remembers it will come as no surprise, that he can admit that is the lesson Frank embodies and the film keeps pounding (again, when you make a mistake, own up). Frank's wimpishness extends to competing with his dolty bully of a neighbor (Phil Hayes), a contest that leads directly to Frank's bringing home a dog, huge and drooly and mayhem-ready, so that he and Greg can bond over trying to keep secret a mildly gross episode involving mom's pot roast.

This episode secures the father-son bond opposed to Susan. It's an old school plot move, pitting roaming men against civilizing women. She means well and they know she's right, in the end, but for now, the wimpy kids must resist, if only to illustrate their wimpishness. While you might be inclined to root for Frank and Greg, as their idiotic schemes come with the territory, you might also be inclined to hope Susan somehow breaks free.

You get that all this is Greg's point of view, that he only sees his mom as mom, but still... it's more tedious than you can guess to watch Susan still feeding baby Manny. He's still mostly silent or speaking gibberish, still maybe three or fourish, and still played by five-year-old twins Connor and Owen Fielding. However you parse Manny, as the annoying little brother, as the occasion for diaper jokes and Greg's grimaces, he's most profoundly the signifier of mom. I repeat: she's still feeding him.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.