Diary of a Wimpy Kid: A (book and movie) Review

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff KinneyEleven-year-old Greg Heffley knows he’s going places. unfortunately, to get there he has to pass through middle school–that cruel, no man’s land where everyone is mashed together irrespective of maturity. What diabolical mind created this strange limbo where kids who haven’t had their growth spurt mingle daily with giants who shave twice a day?

Not to worry, Greg has figured out most of the ins and outs of surviving middle school already. The key lies in walking that fine line between keeping a low profile and earning the school’s admiration as one of the Yearbook Favorites. Now if only Greg could get his best friend Rowley on board with his grand plan to put the cool into middle school in Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2007) by Jeff Kinney.

Find it on Bookshop.

To call Greg self-centered would be an understatement. He is one of the most self-absorbed characters I have ever read. And yet, as is the way, Greg does have a certain charm. His daily trials and tribulations are also quite funny.

As a character Greg is one of those anomalies–not quite bad enough to be a villain but not always nice enough to warrant his spot as protagonist. Although they would probably attract two very different audiences, Diary of a Wimpy Kid reminded me a lot of Louise Rennison’s Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging. Georgia Nicholson, like Greg, is one of the most self-centered characters I have ever encountered. But, and perhaps this is a credit to the respective authors, it kind of works. I’m waiting for the day I find a cross-over fan fiction where Greg’s family moves to England when he is a bit older and he and Georgia meet and start to date. It’s a match made in heaven. Can anyone else hear the tinkling sound of wedding bells?

The book is a fast read and, honestly, popular enough with kids and parents that I don’t really need to say anything else about it. A blend of cartoons and narrative, this is one of those books that sells itself.

As if this book series wasn’t popular enough, there is also a movie version. Diary of a Wimpy Kid came out on March 19 and I was, amazingly, one of the people who saw it on opening day (this never happens). I wasn’t over the moon about the book, but it was kind of fun.

I’m over the moon about the movie.

The idea of a novel in cartoons being recreated as a live action movie is worrisome at best, but in this case, it works really really unbelievably well. Director Thor Freudenthal blends the actors and live action of the film almost seamlessly with integrated snippets of Kinney’s original art brought to life in animated form.

The actors themselves were also fabulous. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the cast consists of children. Talented actor children who I fully expect to be going places when they get older. Zachary Gordon and Robert Capron really brought Greg and Rowley to life.

The movie also added a different spin to a lot of events in the book–it removed some of the hard edges (and hard knocks) from Greg’s story in a way that ultimately made the story tighter. The actors also made a lot of characters that fell flat on the page more dimensional and approachable for me. Steve Zahn was a kinder, gentler father than the one we see in the book. Similarly Devon Bostick was kind of brilliant as Greg’s villainous older brother Rodrick. His exploits and tricks are so much funnier (and more diabolical) in the movie than they were in the book.

Call me crazy, but this might be the movie that turns out to be better than the book.

Possible Pairings: Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan Marino, The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrich, Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick