Last year’s Diary Of A Wimpy Kid, a sort of modern day Adrian Mole based on a series of graphic novels by Jeff Kinney, was a surprising success and as child actors have a limited shelf-life, it’s no surprise that a sequel has popped up before its stars get too old to pass for middle-schoolers.
This time, the story follows hapless hero Greg (Zachary Gordon) and his best friend Rowley (Robert Capron) as they start their new term at school. But although he’s one year older, life isn’t plain-sailing for Greg as he has to contend with his mum’s misguided attempt to get him to bond with his older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick). That’s no mean feat as Rodrick’s casual hobby is making Greg’s life a misery while he rehearses for the upcoming talent contest and Greg also has his hands full attempting to impress the new girl at school without embarrassing himself.
Rodrick Rules isn’t going to shatter any paradigms is comedy. It’s strictly by the book stuff; episodic sketches that play out like an extended episode of Malcolm In The Middle: the normal middle child (Greg) contending with his cute but disruptive younger brother (Manny) and having to get along with his irresponsible older sibling (Rodrick).
The scrapes that Greg gets into will also will familiar to any adolescent – parties are the be all and end all of the social calendar, dances are important and parents are nothing if not horrifically embarrassing. This being a kids’ movie, Greg’s parents (Tina Fey/Sarah Palin look-a-like Rachael Harris and Steve Zahn – a man with eyes so wide he looks like he’s trying to force his eyelids to pop off the top of his head) are given short shrift, relegated to mere sermonising and dancing around goonishly in the background.
Thankfully, the performances from the young cast make them likable and the comedy is consistently amusing if not gut-bustingly hilarious. There’s a strong performance from Devon Bostick as Greg’s older brother – he could have been relegated to the level of pantomime villain, but he’s restrained enough to be a credible fraternal threat without becoming cartoonishly unreal and the unspoken affection he has for Greg shines through his impish cruelty.
But because of the episodic nature of the comedy, there’s not much of a plot and the film starts to drag its feet around the 70 minute mark. With a clearer and sharper plot, DOWK2: RR could have scored an A* on its report card but as it stands it’s a passable sequel that adequately replicates the charms of its predecessor.