The third film based on Jeff Kinney’s book series in three years, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days happens to be my introduction to the franchise. While I can’t offer any comparisons to the earlier films or the source material, I can say Dog Days delivers 94 minutes of low-intensity, genuinely family-friendly entertainment. Refreshingly free of cheap toilet humor (well, except for the name of one character’s rock band, Löded Diper—which is actually pretty funny), the mostly realistic activities of Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) are consistently entertaining.
Greg has very low aspirations for the summer. Basically he plans to while away the days playing as many video games as possible. His dad, Frank (Steve Zahn), can’t stand the idle behavior and wonders if prep school would be more appropriate for Greg. With this loosely running theme, Dog Days follows Greg as he manages to find life beyond video games. For one, he has his eye on Holly (Peyton List) and hopes to break through the “just friends” barrier. He also has his arrogant brother, Rodrick (Devon Bostick), to deal with. Rodrick is the lead singer of the aforementioned rock band, always on the lookout for a gig.
Gordon has played Greg in all three films and my suspicion is “wimpy kid” has become less appropriate of a label as he gets older. At 14, he looks like a young man. He comes off as a bit timid and self-doubting, but wimpy? Not really, especially when compared to his best friend Rowley (the scene-stealing Robert Capron). The funniest stuff in Dog Days involves Greg’s stay the Rowley family beach house. It perfectly captures that uncomfortable feeling of being trapped with a family that behaves very differently than your own. Let’s just say it’s a safe bet that Greg will never order ice cream with Rowley’s parents ever again.
The movie stumbles a bit as it ramps up to its scout troop-dominated third act, with Greg trying to impress his troop leader dad. The father-son dynamic rings entirely true, with Greg feeling increasingly like a loser after lying to his dad all summer about having a job. After all, isn’t it always worse when your dad isn’t “angry,” but “disappointed” with you? The slapstick silliness on the “Wilderness Weekend” trip strains a little too hard to provide an over-the-top climax the movie didn’t really need. But aside from that minor gripe, Dog Days is a gentle slice of relatable fun.
Twentieth Century Fox’s 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray presentation comes up aces from start to finish. The colors are quite vivid, entirely appropriate for the sunny, summertime story. Clarity and detail are uniformly strong. There’s nothing staggeringly attractive about Anthony B. Richmond’s meat-and-potatoes cinematography, but the image quality is exactly what we’ve come to expect from high definition. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix is similarly no-frills, but entirely serviceable. This isn’t The Expendables 2 or some other demo-worthy action extravaganza. Dialogue and the pop rock soundtrack sound fine. Effects are appropriately placed, though the surround and LFE channels are not overly taxed.
Supplemental features include a commentary track by director David Bowers, ten minutes of deleted scenes, a gag reel, and the animated short, “Class Clown.” However, my favorite piece is the “Wimpy Empire” featurette. It’s only about ten minutes, but being new to the franchise I found it interesting to learn about the far-reaching success of Jeff Kinney’s book series. Also included in the package are a standard DVD and Digital Copy.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is a pleasant surprise. You needn’t be a kid, or even a fan of the previous movies, to get a kick out of Greg Heffley’s mild escapades.