Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010) — Who touched the cheese?

“Darren had the Cheese Touch. It was worse than nuclear cooties.”

Justin’s rating: I’ve eaten cheese worse than this and paid for that privilege

Justin’s review: Sometimes I wonder what it’d be like growing up in the era that my kids are, especially in the current pop culture landscape. They’re really big into book series like Big Nate and Captain Underpants, books that gleefully feed into childish mischief with a side order of illustrations. Among the tomes that I’ve seen passed from child to child are the ever-popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which seems to have tapped into the near-universal travails of being a middle-schooler.

And if they liked the book, oh you can bet they’ve seen the movies. Oh yes, they’ve seen the movies. They love them… and I’m not ashamed to say that when they coerced me to sit down and watch the first one, I ended up finding it a whole lot more fun than your standard Disney junk food.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid chronicles the journey of Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), a new middle-school student who is deeply concerned about coming out on top of his school year. This is going to be an issue: He’s got a very uncool best friend in Rowley, his older brother Rodrick delights in tormenting him, an overly ambitious girl named Patty keeps beating him up, and he’s a little too concerned with his self-image to be comfortable with who he is.

And while all of this could make for an unpleasant movie experience where the lead is unlikable and constantly put-upon, this film straddles the line well by keeping Greg’s year in a heightened, oft-goofy reality. The kid doesn’t have it all together, but hey, who did at that age?

While I don’t identify much with being a middle-schooler these days (middle-aged, perhaps), I do like me a fresh stack of laughcakes. And this flick has a crazy amount of zany jokes that appeal to anyone with a childish sense of humor. It’s hard to explain, but so much of it is perfectly couched in the mindset of a kid, including bizarre small town myths, silly insults, and crude-yet-innocent scenarios.

Even Greg’s parents — played by Steve Zahn and Rachael Harris — are pretty amusing, even though their roles could have been boring, authoritarian bit parts. It feels like the writers — and the book author himself — gave themselves permission to jettison maturity to tap into what it was like to look at the world through 11-year-old eyes.

In that way, it might be the best “kids view” movie I’ve seen since A Christmas Story.

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