If you have children in elementary school, they are probably very excited to see the latest "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" movie.
Most kids adore the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books, which are about a boy named Greg Heffley who struggles to fit in during middle school.
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” is the fourth movie in the series based on Jeff Kinney's popular books. Yes, it’s been seven years since the last Wimpy Kid movie, and now there’s an all-new cast. In this installment, Greg (now played by Jason Drucker) encounters a luggage-stealing family nicknamed “The Beardos,” exploding cinnamon rolls, a squealing piglet, a swarm of seagulls who love cheese curls, and an “Alien Abduction.” Yes, all this and more, when the Heffley family takes a road trip to visit Grandma Meemaw for her 90th birthday.
I attended an advance screening of the movie with my 15-year-old son and his friend from school. They read all the Wimpy Kid books in elementary school, but it was still fun for them to see their favorite story come to life on the screen. My son and his friend are now freshmen in high school, so they identify with Roderick (played by Charlie Wright) more than his little brother Greg. I don’t know who laughed more during the movie—me or the boys. At least twice, I had tears rolling down my face from laughing so much. Yes, this really is a crazy and funny movie that will have you in stiches.
As a heads up, most of the laughs are gross-out humor involving pee, poop, vomit, farting, as well as some insulting language ("dork," "fat," "stupid," etc.). Stressful moments include car accidents, chase scenes, and mayhem on the road. Greg is chased by the angry “Mr. Beardo” (played by Christopher Coppola) but it’s slapstick, wacky, and even suspenseful at times. Admittedly, much of the behavior in this movie isn't particularly admirable. Greg and Rodrick deceive their parents. They reprogram the car’s GPS so they can attend a video game convention and also sneak off without their parent’s consent. Ultimately, the characters realize their shortcomings and come together, amid the sibling torment, crazy car escapades, and jokes about bodily functions. As every good writer knows: If life were a smooth ride, there wouldn’t be much of a plot. What I appreciate about this movie is that it offers a positive message about the importance of family and working together to overcome obstacles.
The story begins at an all-you-can-eat restaurant, where Greg accidentally finds a dirty diaper in the playground ball pit. Greg starts screaming about the diaper and people videotape him in action. Somehow, the video of Greg goes viral on YouTube. Greg fumes that everyone is laughing at him and calling him “diaper hands.”
Meanwhile, Greg’s mom (played by Alicia Silverstone) announces that they will take a 72-hour road trip to visit Grandma Meemaw. Initially, Greg is frustrated about being in the car with nothing to do. However, Greg discovers there is a videogame convention only “two inches away” on the map. Greg schemes that the car trip is a good idea after all, because then he could attend the videogame convention. Greg wants to meet Mac Digby (played by Joshua Hoover,) a guy with pink and black hair, who is famous on YouTube for making millions of dollars by merely playing video games. If Greg can make a video of himself meeting Mac Digby then his reputation might be salvaged. Yes, being with Mac Digby would make people forget about that embarrassing “diaper hands” video of Greg which destroyed his reputation.
The plot is compelling because almost everyone can relate the phenomenon of a bad travel experience. Certainly, the movie takes the mayhem to the extreme, as the Heffleys experience every imaginable car-related difficulty, from a broken radiator to being covered with mud and seagull droppings. Much of the shtick has been done before, perhaps in TV sitcoms and movies such as "National Lampoon’s Vacation." But that doesn’t matter, as we are drawn into the storyline and are wondering what will happen next. The trip exposes the Heffleys to different worlds and different types of people.
Being stuck in a minivan with your family creates a tension and then a bond as Greg and Roderick scheme to get to the videogame convention. Even though Rodrick and Greg don’t always get along, they learn to respect each other, and their relationship grows stronger.
On a personal note, my teenage son and his friend especially liked the character of Roderick, who has a dry sense of humor and clever comedic timing. Actor Charlie Wright is compelling as a not-so-bright older brother who needs money to fix up his “Loded Diaper” van. It’s funny when Roderick goes to the carnival and discovers extra-crispy fried butter on a stick, much to the chagrin of his mom, who wants him to eat healthy food. Another funny character is Greg’s toddler brother, Manny (played by Dylan and Wyatt Walters) who wins a competition for guessing a hog’s weight. The prize is a baby piglet, which the Heffleys are forced to take with them on the road. Of course, the main character of Greg is also well-played by Drucker, who offers a convincing and compelling performance.
If you’re looking for a good movie this summer, “The Long Haul” is a hilarious and heartwarming adventure. Even though they get into trouble at every turn, the Heffleys discover that they have a family bond that enables them to overcome any hurdle, including embarrassing viral videos and “diaper hands” memes. Everything that I loved about the first three Wimpy Kid movies is ratcheted in this crazy adventure. The bottom line: Highly recommended with two thumbs up.
"Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul" opens in theaters May 19.