Movie Review: “Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” Is “National Lampoon’s Vacation” For Kids

“The movie panders to its very lowest denominator and while most of the children in attendance were probably too young to even know what that means, kids are smart and they know when adults are talking down to them, instead of to them.”


 

A Heffley family road trip to attend Meemaw’s 90th birthday party goes hilariously off course thanks to Greg’s newest scheme to get to a video gaming convention.

My 10-year-old nephew Martin was really excited when I told him I received the press screening invitation for “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul.” Just a week prior, he went out and bought all three of the previous “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” movies on DVD and couldn’t wait to see the latest one. I’m glad someone was happy. Don’t get me wrong, I love kids films, “Babe” and “E.T.” are still two of my all-time favorites but because I didn’t know too much about the Wimpy Kid movies, which are based on very successful books, I decided to go in with an open mind. Honestly, going into a film knowing very little about it can sometimes be a godsend, you haven’t seen the trailer, you haven’t read up on the story so there is no expectation, and most times, I’ve found, you come away from the movie pleasantly surprised. However, in the case of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul,” that wasn’t the feeling I left the theater with. To sum it up as simply as possible, it is basically a watered-down version of “National Lampoon’s Vacation” but for kids. If you’ve seen that Chevy Chase classic, it works because it is “R” rated and has many adult-themed humorous situations. Now take that down a few notches and give it a “PG” rating, and that’s basically what this film amounts to. The same disastrous road trip, but without the humor.

When Greg (Jason Drucker) discovers that his entire family is taking a road trip across the country to see his grandmother for her 90th birthday, he is beyond livid. The thought of having to spend days on the road, sitting in a cramped minivan along with his family, is the things nightmares are made of but when he realizes that his favorite video game YouTuber, Mac Digby (Joshua Hoover), is going to be hosting a video game convention which just happens to be on the way to his grandmother’s, he hatches a plan to go see him without telling his parents. Naturally, things don’t go according to plan and suffice to say, their vacation turns into an ordeal as they encounter a thieving family who steal all their personal belongings, their minivan breaks down, and Greg’s younger brother Manny wins a baby pig at a state fair, who insists on keeping it because it makes him happy.

Everything that transpires in this movie does so not because it is realistic, but because the filmmakers have no sense of narrative structure. Their idea of funny is to throw absolutely everything at the Heffley family and hope that some of it will stick and in turn, make the audience laugh. Sadly, that was not the case. I figured at least the kids in the audience, including my nephew, would really enjoy the film but I was very surprised when I heard very few laughs throughout. The movie panders to its very lowest denominator and while most of the children in attendance were probably too young to even know what that means, kids are smart and they know when adults are talking down to them, instead of to them. “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” might appeal to diehard fans of the series but overall, it is a huge mess that appeals to nobody in particular. My nephew said he enjoyed it at the time but when I asked him about it again a week later, he said he really didn’t think it was that good after all. I think he’s onto something.

In theaters Friday, May 19th


 

James McDonald

Originally from Dublin, Ireland, James is a Movie Critic and Celebrity Interviewer with over 30 years of experience in the film industry as an Award-Winning Filmmaker.

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