After a five-year break, the Heffley family is back in action – although with a different cast playing them – in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, the fourth feature taken from Jeff Kinney’s highly relatable series of cartoon novels chronicling the life of a hapless adolescent.
The hiatus after 2012’s Dog Days effectively aged out original lead Zachary Gordon (who is now 19), as well as his big brother/tormentor played by Devon Bostick (now 25), and while they were cleaning house, the producers also sent original parents Steve Zahn and Rachael Harris packing. They’re now played by the slightly younger Tom Everett Scott and Alicia Silverstone.
Tellingly, despite the casting overhaul, it’s the same old Wimpy Kid in that it still hasn’t figured out how to make its characters as likeable or knowingly engaging as Kinney’s simple line drawings and text.
But like its predecessors, there’s still sufficient, harmless amusement to be had for kids and their parents in the market for a bonding experience.
Although his family is setting out on a big summer road trip to attend his grandmother Meemaw’s 90th birthday party, Greg (Drucker) and his decidedly dim rocker brother Rodrick (Wright) have plans to make a little detour at the Player’s Expo video game convention.
Determined to repair the damage done to his reputation by an embarrassing incident at Corny’s Family-Style Restaurant that has gone viral, Greg figures that appearing in gamer Mac Digby’s (Hoover) next YouTube video would make people forget all about his “Diaper Hand” meme.
Trouble is, mom Susan (Silverstone), has confiscated all electronics devices, replacing them with good-old-fashioned sing-alongs and a visit to a quaint county fair that yields a take-home prize in the form of a live baby pig.
Needless to say, the cute piglet isn’t the only unexpected bump in the road encountered by the Heffleys, and while the route is a well travelled one, the script, by Kinney and director David Bowers, tosses in enough calamity and obligatory potty humour to keep the engine from sputtering.
By now Bowers, who also directed the last two Wimpy Kid movies, knows how to choreograph the inherent chaos for optimal giggles.
The incoming cast is up to the task at hand, although Wright’s Rodrick comes across as a bit more dumbed down.
There’s admittedly a void left by the absence of Zahn and Harris, who somehow felt more of a piece with Kinney’s comic strip renderings.