A day shy of the one year anniversary of the animated Disney+ adaptation of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the streamer brings the second book in Jeff Kinney’s award-winning series to the screen. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules strikes a different tone with its story about brotherhood. And while Greg, the titular wimpy kid, is still trying to navigate his place in the world, this story is much more home-centric than the school-based first film.
Greg’s parents are going away for the weekend, leaving his older brother Rodrick in charge! When Rodrick throws a party that gets out of control, Greg agrees to help his brother cover it up. But now armed with ammunition against his older brother, Greg and Rodrick will go on a journey to better understand one another.
The sentiment of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules is sweet, and the sequel improves upon the first film, which had a lot of pacing issues. As part of a planned long-term film series that could see all 17 (and counting) installments make their way to Disney+, the first film truncated its story to wrap up the action just past Halloween. Rodrick Rules continues that trend, trimming away the summer break component of the book (although elements of it are repurposed) and setting the story primarily within the month of November.
One of the highlights of the film is the late Ed Asner as the voice of Greg and Rodrick’s grandfather. The boys are sent to spend a weekend with him at his assisted living facility on a later weekend in the film. Asner brings to the role his lovable gruffness and his role adds a lot of value for parents who may be watching the film with their kids.
As with the first film, this animated series faithfully brings to the screen Jeff Kinney’s cartoon style, which feels inspired by the work of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, and Jim Jinkins’ Doug. It’s visually appealing, although it doesn’t particularly lend itself well to the CG landscape. Canadian animation studio Bardel Entertainment returns for the film (they also did The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild) and while some of the herky-jerky animation is an artistic choice, there are a surprising number of sequences that look incomplete. For example, a moment where Greg’s mother moves in front of the TV to get her boys’ attention feels like she’s walking on air, with no weight to the character at that moment. It’s little things like this that make the film feel less than most of the animated fare produced for Disney+.
Overall, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules seems to have learned a few lessons from the first film, with a much better pace and a more complete story to tell. That being said, it still has a few valleys that may lose the interest of its target audience, especially when the first act involves a chaotic party that feels much more like a climax than the third act’s resolution. But if this is a sign of things to come, the next installment (should it be given the green light) ought to continue this upward trend.
I give Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules 3.5 out of 5 diaereses over “O”’s.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules is now streaming on Disney+.
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