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Review: 'Diary Of A Wimpy Kid' (2021) Dir. Swinton Scott

Brady Noon, Ethan William Childress, Chris Diamantopoulos, Erica Cerra, Hunter Dillon, Christian Convery, Brenda Crichlow, Mizinga Mwinga and Veda Maharaj


Acting as a short adaptation of the popular 2007 series of novels, this CGI animation serves as the fifth feature film of the series but also acts as a reboot away from the previous live action...

Greg Heffley (Noon) and his best friend Rowley Jefferson (Childress) are making the big leap from Elementary School to Middle School - this means a shake up in their attitude and thoughts on growing up and surviving their peers!

While Greg starts to understand the codes of school, not helped by big brother Roderick (Dillon), it's Rowley who struggles with adjusting. Greg walks a fine line in trying to fit in but also not isolate friends or family in doing so.

In trying to be popular and set himself aside from the rest, Greg runs the risk of losing his valuable friendship with Rowley. Can he be both popular but also stay true to himself, or will he face a term of school alone with the threat of the dreaded "Cheese Touch" hanging over him...

For a short runtime just under 1 hour, there are a number of sweet themes running throughout that don't feel padded out or awkward. Being the exploration of early school days for such a big transition, friendship is key to this story and especially for Greg and Rowley. Moving to bigger school is a huge step for children, and Greg is the child many of us wanted to be, or even were. Voiced brilliantly by young Brady Noon of Boardwalk Empire and The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, Greg wants to be popular but at the expense of alienating his friendship with Rowley, who simply wants to be himself. Greg is certainly struggling to adjust more than most, and it's the choices he makes and why that make this both entertaining but also quite tender at times without being overly sentimental.

Rowley, voiced by Ethan William Childress, never wavers from who he is and ends up being more popular and liked for it. The messages about staying true to yourself are ever present, but somehow never feel forced down your throat as it comes from Greg's point of view rather than a lecturing parent or teacher. It's half the fun exploring how to adjust and be best friends without losing it all in the process.

The cast of characters are all fun and full of energy which adds to their charm and entertainment value, and there's plenty of moments that remind you of time spent in the cafeteria for lunch with the nerds, the popular girls or the tough nuts, "hanging out" at a friends house or navigating a playground.

The animation works thanks to the cartoonish interpretations of the main characters, able to be created in faithful rendition of their literature counterparts; simple animations for simple features.

Disney keep their production simple and thus perfect as an interpretation of the novel that also has very simple illustration, coming across with a simplicity of films like Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. That's not to say the detail is lacking, as it's not. Lots of well created locations and sequences in their local hometown school and even Halloween. The colours are vibrant and it really pops on the screen for an eye-pleasing, family friendly animation.

Being the diary - sorry, journal - of a wimpy kid trying to survive school, we are faced with a number of challenges to overcome such as facing down school bullies, not embarrassing yourself in front of the cool kids and making sure to remember to embrace your inner childhood and never sacrifice it for anyone. There's a wonderful innocence to things, and it never sets out to be anything other than that, just like the books. The comedy doesn't need to be as bold or pop-culture heavy as, say, The Simpsons or Dexter's Laboratory; it's just simple and in its own little universe without having to reference anything else except the current situation and story we see on screen.

Bright and brilliantly animated, with plenty of humours content that doesn't need to be crass or aim for adult jokes is refreshing and nice to see. John Paesano provides a cheeky, zany score to accompany the story. It's a family friendly film but caters to a youth audience with a very recognisable experience of hitting middle school and strengthen your friendships along the way. There's certainly room for further instalments of the Wimpy Kid adventures on the Disney+ platform with this debut of top quality content.

A short but sweet reminder of what it means to be a kid taking the big step into Elementary School. Fun animation and a fun voice-cast bring this adaptation to life that is a great tease for more of this calibre in future.

'Diary Of A Wimpy Kid' is a Walt Disney Pictures production

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