Back in middle school after a summer of squabbling, Rodrick Rules sees the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid series return to the silver screen, and the Heffley family try to smooth over brotherly relations, with parents Susan (Harris) and Frank’s (Zahn) failed attempts to have Greg (Gordon) and Rodrick (Bostick) bond.
That might not sound like enough of a plot to sustain a 99 minute feature film, and well, you’d be right, but sadly that’s all on offer. While there’s plenty of opportunity of comedy set-pieces along the way (back to school ice rink social, older brother throwing a house party, racing around an old people’s home), really nothing much happens the entire film, and not unsurprisingly that’s Rodrick Rules’ downfall right from the off.
Though the film has the right aesthetic, and a kids’ sitcom-style tone with cheap jokes that’ll just about entertain young viewers, the story and narrative offer absolutely depth or development. I’m not asking for Citizen Kane here, but just a wisp of expansion to the characters, an actual narrative that the film can walk down, or just some sort of ambition to the whole project would not have gone amiss.
The slapstick, silly comedy set pieces that the film instead relies on are similarly defunct, taking you out of the film more than throwing laughs at the audience. Kids will perhaps chuckle in fits and starts, but there’s nothing whatsoever on offer for anyone above the age of 15.
And to make matters worse, backing character, and as the titular Rodrick, brother of the focal ‘wimpy kid’, Devon Bostick is remarkably annoying, and not in the intentional older brother way, instead in his performance, serving to aggravate, and not in the way the story intends it.
With a solid market already in place, however, Rodrick Rules keeps the franchise rolling, even if at just 1 mph. The possibility for a third is still open, though if that, like this, shapes up to be a dreadfully boring, ‘zany’ feature-length kids’ sitcom, they’d be better cutting their losses now, and concentrating instead on something with more of a purpose.