I’ve had quite a history with Diary of a Wimpy Kid. As a young kid, I read every book in the series created by Jeff Kinney. I’ve also seen the live-action movies, some of them several times each. I really liked the books in the sense that they made me laugh and just enjoy the characters. I really enjoyed the book The Long Haul because the Heffleys have a series of hilarious misadventures, including picking up a baby pig at a county fair. After having read many of the books, I was very excited to see the characters brought to life in the four live-action movies. Now, Kinney is bringing animated versions of his books to Disney+ in a series of short films beginning with Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid presents the events of the first story in an easy-to-watch 56-minute film. Swinton Scott, who has directed episodes of animated hits such as The Simpsons and Futurama, directed the film which was written and produced by Jeff Kinney. Kinney’s involvement kept the plot of the film almost identical to the book. The film introduces Greg Heffley, voiced by Brady Noon (Good Boys, The Mighty Ducks) and his best friend, Rowley, voiced by Ethan William Childress, as they learn the ropes of middle school. The animated film deals with many of the same themes as the book including, friendship, respect, maturing, and an unhealthy obsession with being popular. It’s a coming-of-age story that is full of humor and drives home lessons about what it means to be a true friend.
The book dials right into the friendship of Greg and Rowley and highlights Greg’s efforts to force Rowley into growing up so he doesn’t “embarrass him.” In this way, Greg is not a great friend. This aspect of their relationship is featured heavily in the movie. There is one particular scene that takes place at lunch where Rowley asks Greg if he wants to come over and play in the crowded cafeteria. This makes Greg feel embarrassed of Rowley because it’s not the “cool” way to say it (Rowley should’ve asked to hang out), showing an example of Greg’s obsession with being popular. This part makes me feel bad for Rowley because he is still a kid and Greg forces him into growing up so they can be cool. Greg behaves like that again when they are hanging out at Rowley’s house and Greg makes fun of him for having all of the childish stuff in his room like dinosaur bed sheets and stuffed animals. All of these scenes support the claim that Greg is not a great friend to Rowley.
The film’s animation brings the 2-D cartoons from the book into 3-D animation. The animation of the characters resembled the animation from the book very well, making it an easy film to watch. There were even some small touches to the animation that made the body language of the characters give off more emotion.
I felt connected to the characters. When Greg was mean to Rowley, I felt bad for Rowley and angry at Greg. I also found the film to be very funny. One scene, in particular, is when Rodrick, voiced by Hunter Dillon, was terrorizing Greg about how bad middle school will be by coming up with a bunch of unrealistic scenarios Greg’s reaction was hilarious and on point. And, of course, there’s the classic “cheese scene” that will always cause a laugh. While watching the film, I felt myself empathizing with different characters at different points in time, which is a win for the film. The voice cast really worked well and sold the emotion of the characters.
I really enjoyed the movie. In summary, it captures all the humor from the book but also includes an added focus on heartfelt moments that weren’t necessarily featured in the book. The Disney+ movie is an upgraded version of the already classic kid’s book. If the adaptations of the other books in the series are as emotionally stirring, I hope they adapt them all.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid is now streaming on Disney Plus.