REVIEW: ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules’

(L-R): Greg (voiced by Brady Noon) and Rodrick (voiced by Hunter Dillon) from 20th Century Studios’ DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODRICK RULES. © 2022 20th Century Studios.

Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series has sold over 275 million books since the original was published in 2007. Over the last 15 years, Kinney has published 17 books in the main series, including Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Diper Överlöde, which was released just this past October. The beloved series has expanded into supplemental books, a spinoff series and live-action films, and, most recently, animated films on Disney Plus. The first film, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, debuted on the streaming service in December of 2021 and now the first sequel, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, has followed.

Much like 2021’s entry into what looks to be a growing animated franchise (the third book in the series is already being developed for release on Disney Plus) plays out over an easily-digestible runtime. Also, like 2021’s entry (and presumably all future entries) Kinney has adapted his own original work into the screenplay which makes Rodrick Rules feel like a bit of a highlight reel of all the important beats from the book. At the heart of the story is the relationship between the franchise’s central character, Greg, and his older brother, notorious slacker Rodrick. Greg, voiced by a returning Brady Noon, finds himself with some leverage over Rodrick when the older brother throws a huge party when their parents are away. Over the course of the film, Greg’s relationship with Rodrick is tested and strained as a result of said leverage allowing the nature of family, specifically sibling relationships, to be explored. A visit with their grandfather, voiced by Ed Asner in his final role, sets the stage for Greg to do some tough thinking about the present and future of his relationship with Rodrick.

(L-R): Mackie (voiced by Nathan Arenas), Bill (voiced by Jimmy Tatro), Rodrick (voiced by Hunter Dillon), and Larry (voiced by Hudson Yang) from 20th Century Studios’ DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODRICK RULES. © 2022 20th Century Studios.

Though Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules plays as a CliffsNotes version of either the novel or the 2011 live-action film, the theme comes across loud and clear, especially during the climax at the talent show in which Greg, following an emotional conversation with his grandfather, makes a choice about where he will stand in his relationship with Rodrick. Like 2021’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Rodrick Rules seems aimed at younger audiences. The animation, the short runtime, the shortened plot and the simple themes should all make this and future installments fit Kinney’s goals of telling more emotional stories on Disney Plus.

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