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MOVIE INFO

Director:
David Bowers
Cast:
Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Rachael Harris, Robert Capron, Steve Zahn, Peyton List, Karan Brar
Writing Credits:
Gabe Sachs, Jeff Judah, Jeff Kinney (book)

Tagline:
Welcome to the next grade.

Synopsis:
Greg Heffley, the kid who made “wimpy” cool, is back in this sidesplitting sequel based on the second installment of the best-selling book series! Having rid himself of the "Cheese Touch", Greg enters the next grade with his confidence and friendships intact, and an eye on the new girl in town, Holly Hills. But at home, Greg is still at war with his older brother, Rodrick, so their parents have handed down the toughest “punishment” imaginable – forcing the boys to spend quality time with each other.

Box Office:
Budget
$21 million.
Opening Weekend
$23.751 million on 3167 screens.
Domestic Gross
$52.691 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 99 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 6/21/2010

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director David Bowers and Author Jeff Kinney
• Seven “My Summer Vacation” Shorts
• 10 Deleted Scenes and Alternate Ending with Optional Commentary
• Gag Reel
• Trailer
• DVD Copy of the Film
• Digital Copy
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

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Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 21, 2011)

Though 2010’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid didn’t light up the box office, apparently its $63 million US take was enough to green-light a sequel. That brings us 2011’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, a tale that sort of picks up where the last one ended.

Again we focus on Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), the titular not-so-tough youngster. The prior film depicted his rough first year in middle school, so this one shows Greg back for seventh grade after summer break. Back with his nerdy best pal Rowley (Robert Capron), he sets his sights on cute new girl Holly Hills (Peyton List), who he also sees as his long-desired ticket to popularity.

In addition to Greg’s pursuit of Holly, he gets forced to spend ample time with his older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick). The guys bicker most of the time – usually due to Rodrick’s sadistic view to sibling relations – so their mother (Rachael Harris) decides to do something about it. She bribes them with rewards to encourage more bonding time between them, which leads to many not-so-pleasant occasions for Greg.

When I watched the first Kid movie, I thought it was a disappointment but it offered a pleasant one. The film had some fun moments and offered enough pre-teen-related insights to charm even an old dude far from its demographic.

So what made it a moderate disappointment? The feeling that it could’ve been a little more barbed than it was. The Kid series seems best when it goes for the absurdity and silly meanness of middle school existence; the first movie had some of those bits but tended to be a bit more soft and sentimental than I’d like.

I hoped the second flick would remedy this, but instead, it goes in the opposite direction. Moments of basic pre-teen cruelty don’t appear too often, and the film tends toward a semi-goopy tone at times. This doesn’t happen to an extreme, but it occurs enough to make the movie a little tough to take.

This means Rules veers more toward broad laughs instead of the insights that make the series work. We get occasional nuggets that let us flash back to middle school’s petty rules and absurdities, but even those don’t go much of anywhere. For instance, the “Invisible Chirag” piece has promise ala the “Cheese Touch” from the first movie, but it doesn’t develop to maximize its fun. The gag pops up, limps along a little and then resolves in a silly manner.

Some of the softer tone seems to be a nod toward the realities of the movie market; I guess the producers think the more unvarnished aspects of Jeff Kinney’s books won’t play on the big screen. I disagree, and I think the kinder/gentler thing robs Wimpy of what makes the books special.

Usually I complain that movies make characters too one-dimensional, but in this case, it’s the film’s attempts to add depth to the parts that hurts it. Who really wants to see a tamed-down Rodrick? The roles are much more interesting when they act as archetypes like the sadistic older brother or the juvenile friend; attempts to make them more three-dimensional just ensure that they seem bland and forgettable.

Even though the whole “bonding brothers” element should make Rules a fairly tight narrative, instead the movie feels really scattershot. Plot elements drift in and out of the flick, and none of it melds together pretty well. Granted, the first film didn’t have much of a coherent story either, but it delivered enough of those delicious “middle school memories” to work. It wanted to be something of a movie yearbook, while Rules attempts a clearer tale, which makes it ironic that it fails and seems less tight than its predecessor.

Despite all my criticisms, I can’t call Rules a bad piece of family entertainment. It falls short of its goals but it has some amusing bits and keeps us moderately involved in its gags. I just think it could’ve been much better than it is if it’d stayed closer to its roots.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Expect a repeat of the first movie’s visuals, for this presentation looked a lot like it.

Sharpness was generally positive. At times, I noticed a bit of softness, especially in wider shots. Still, the majority of the flick looked pretty concise and distinctive. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, and edge enhancement was absent. I also failed to detect any source flaws.

In terms of colors, the movie featured a natural palette that favored a slight golden tone. Across the board, the hues looked positive. They showed nice clarity and breadth and came out well. Blacks were dark and deep, while shadows appeared clear and smooth. The occasional softness created some distractions, but the transfer usually seemed solid.

I thought that the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Rules worked fine but it didn’t excel because of a lack of ambition. Like most comedies, the movie featured a limited soundfield that favored the forward channels. It showed nice stereo spread to the music as well as some general ambience from the sides. Panning was decent, and the surrounds usually kicked in basic reinforcement. Nothing memorable occurred, as most of the movie stayed with limited imaging.

Audio quality appeared good. Speech was natural and distinct, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate, with good fidelity and no signs of distortion. Music was perfectly fine, as the score and songs showed positive dimensionality. This track was good enough for a “B-“ but didn’t particularly impress.

The Blu-ray comes with a decent set of extras. We begin with an audio commentary from director David Bowers and author Jeff Kinney. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat about story and adaptation issues, cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, stunts and effects, editing, music and a few other areas.

On the negative side, we get an awful lot of happy talk here, as both men praise everything they can find to praise. Nonetheless, they usually make this a pretty zippy track, and they include some good notes. I’d like a little more from Kinney about his books, but this is still an enjoyable and informative track.

Under My Summer Vacation, we get seven shorts. These run a total of eight minutes, 58 seconds and let the movie’s main characters tell us what they did during their breaks. These essentially act like deleted scenes, and they’re not particularly consistent; one says Rowley spent the summer away, but then we see him playing games with Greg. Still, they’re fun and fans will enjoy them.

10 Deleted Scenes fill nine minutes, 22 seconds. Most of these really offer longer versions of existing sequences, and it’s often easy to tell why they became abbreviated in the final flick; for instance, the chase at the old folks home is already too long, so more of that isn’t a good thing. A few amusing moments emerge, but most of this stuff deserved the boot.

We can watch these with or without commentary from Bowers. He adds a few notes about the scenes and usually tells us why he trimmed them from the final film. I’d like a bit more info – Bowers stays pretty basic – but he still offers useful material.

An Alternate Ending goes for one minute, 26 seconds. It shows the aftermath of Greg’s run around the old folks home when Rodrick tells his friends about it. It’s not an especially good clip, as I don’t think it wraps up that thread in a satisfying way. Bowers delivers more commentary and lets us know why he dropped this scene.

Next comes a Gag Reel. It lasts four minutes, 23 seconds. As usual, it delivers a collection of mistakes and silly moments. Some of these are moderately interesting, though, so it’s not a bad set.

The disc opens with ads for Rio and Marley and Me: The Puppy Years. The disc also throws in the trailer for Rules.

A second disc offers a DVD Copy of Rules. This appears to be the same disc that you’d buy commercially, not a “dumbed down” one intended just for this set. If you want to own Rules but aren’t yet Blu-ray capable, it’s a good bonus.

Finally, a third platter provides a Digital Copy of the movie. This allows you to transfer the film to a computer or portable gadget. And there you go!

If there’s a third Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie, perhaps it’ll more fully embrace the tone of the books on which it was based. Unfortunately, Rodrick Rules veers away from the unsentimental tone that makes those tomes such fun and becomes little more than a goofy kiddie comedy. The Blu-ray delivers generally positive picture and audio along with a few interesting supplements. The movie brings us decent entertainment but still ends up as a disappointment.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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