DIARY OF A WIMPY KID 2; RODRICK RULES is a surprisingly enjoyable sequel to last year’s surprise hit about a 11-year-old boy’s attempt to navigate the hell that is American middle school. The new film, based on the best-selling follow-up novel by Jeff Kinney, is more focused on the young protagonist’s family life, specifically his relationship with his vindictive older brother, who was the most entertaining character in the first film anyway. Now in seventh grade, diarist Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) is focused on impressing the new blonde student Holly (Peyton R. List) but his overtures lead to embarrassment mostly because of his bullying and obnoxious big brother Rodrick. Their mother, a local advice columnist (Rachael Harris) finds her two son’s inability to get along unacceptable so she orders them to bond and gives them a weekend alone to do it.
The sequel’s shift in focus from Greg’s friends to his family was a good move as it provides a showcase for the talents of Devon Bostick as Rodrick. With his greasy hair, goofy sadism and dim view,Bostick, who looks like a cross between Jimmy Fallon and Keanu Reeves, is a talented young comic actor and the filmmakers were wise to let him cut loose here. The sequel doesn’t disregard what made the first one a hit though, existing in an irreverent (often literal) cartoon atmosphere with a predictable reliance on poop jokes. There is something refreshing about the brother’s relationship as well as the film’s ultimate unwillingness to redeem Rodrick in any overtly sentimental fashion. Bright, fast-paced and often very funny, DIARY OF A WIMPY KID 2; RODRICK RULES conveys, in a good-humored, sharply observed way, the small, painful cruelties and unpredictable rules of early adolescence, and it celebrates awkwardness without feeling the need to convert it into cheap triumph. It’s far from great art, but an entertaining enough way to spend 95 minutes.
3 1/2 of 5 Stars