Watch Steve's supplemental video review at the bottom of the article
Like adjusting old box office records for inflation, or grading an assignment on the Bell Curve, my two-star rating for Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul feels like a four-star rating following the three previous installments in this mostly repugnant film franchise. Adapted from a series of novels by Jeff Kinney, which I fondly recall brewing from a recurring, daily web-comic on the educational website FunBrain, the Diary of a Wimpy Kidfilm series has been an atrocious misstep since it began back in 2010.
I've come to the conclusion that the kind of sight-gags, visual humor, and awkward situations that ran rampant in the book series (which is set to be up to number twelve come November) do not translate well at all to film. Seeing cartoon drawings you could believe a sixth grader doodled in his notebook during a boring lecture on exponents was a lot more engaging and imaginative than seeing the actions depicted being played out by actors doing nothing more than embarrassing themselves with bad writing and an abundance of silliness.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul
Jason Drucker, Alicia Silverstone, Tom Everett Scott
19 May 2017
Steve's Grade: D+
But The Long Haul is the best of this dreadful series so far, and I think it has something to do with it being a road-trip film. Rather than seeing the adventures of Greg Heffley in school, surrounded by overly dramatized middle school cliches like Chirag Gupta and Fregley, we see Greg largely confined to his family, at the awkward age of loving them except not wanting to be seen with them in public. Even minimized in his usual supporting role is Greg's best friend Rowley, so that just leaves his little brother Manny and his older brother Rodrick to fill in as the supporting players.
Another change is the cast, as Zachary Gordon and Devon Bostick have outgrown their characters (something Wimpy Kid fans don't seem to understand given the massive amount of dislikes the film's trailer has on Youtube) and have been replaced with Jason Drucker and Charlie Wright, respectively. Drucker is more or less interchangeable to Gordon in appearance and vocal-tone. Wright is, however, not the least bit similar and a largely obnoxious personality. Also sprinkled in is Alicia Silverstone as Greg's mother (who rivals Rachael Harris from the original trilogy in being sporadically funny), while Tom Everett Scott replaces Steve Zahn as Greg's father. A change in cast isn't ideal this late in the game, but even with budgets for films rising to exorbitant millions (this film cost over $20 million to make), it's still not enough to afford or invent a Fountain of Youth.
As stated, Greg, Rodrick, Manny (Dylan and Wyatt Walters), mom, and dad all embark on a cross-country adventure to Indiana to celebrate their "Memaw"'s 90th birthday party. After mom institutes a ban on technology in the car, the kids and parents are forced to try to make it through the entire trip without using their phones. Greg, however, plans to try and make it to a comic book convention to meet Mac Digby (Joshua Hoover), an overgrown man-child who makes a living playing video-games. Once he gets Rodrick in on the plan, he has an ally who is normally known for making his life a living hell.
Much of the film revolves around the perils of this disastrous, hastily planned vacation. Manny winds up winning a pig at a county fair that causes grief for the family the entire way to Meemaw's, Greg angers a violent, bearded father who seemingly goes everywhere they go, and at one point, Meemaw's gift - a photo album - gets stolen after all of the Heffley's clothes and toiletries are scattered alongside the road.
Commonplace tropes found in the Diary of a Wimpy Kidfranchise are still present, such as projectile vomiting, a wretched amount of bathroom humor, and a great deal of sight-gags that do little besides please those who are Manny's age or younger. Thankfully, one doesn't need to witness such horribly unfunny sequences involving "the cheese touch" or Rowley's cluelessness, so whatever we get in The Long Haul doesn't feel nearly as dreadful as what we've already witnessed.
After bashing what I guess we can now bill as the "original trilogy" of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I admit that unlike the previous films, The Long Haul finds itself to be a mostly tolerable excursion, save for some predictable idiocy. The biggest problem with the films of this franchise has been the way they bask in immaturity, but this film at least gives some sort of acknowledgement to the current age and emotions of Greg. The tone-deafness of the original films about a kid who is not necessarily an outcast, but a plain, ordinary soul is somewhat improved here for a film that could aptly be compared to being bumped into rather than being directly kicked or assaulted in terms of pain levels.