Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Thor Freudenthal
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 92 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, others
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: August 3, 2010
Review Date: August 5, 2010
The grueling, intimidating efforts to fit into middle school life make Thor Freudenthal’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid funny and special. With the pre-adolescent years traumatic for any number of reasons, Freudenthal’s film, based on the best selling children’s literature series by Jeff Kinney, hits lots of emotions that many viewers will be able to cringingly identify with, and with standout child actors essaying the most important parts, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a fresh, fun family flick.
Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) is determined that his first year in middle school is not going to be a humiliating experience even though his overweight best friend Rowley Jefferson (Robert Capron) seems like he’s going to be something of a liability going in, and he’s also haunted by other acquaintances from grammar school who are still around: the creepy Fregley (Grayson Russell) and a girl who beat him up twice in previous years Patty Farrell (Laine MacNeil). Sad to say, however, despite his best efforts, everything he tries to make himself one of the cool kids backfires in a big way as he slowly sees himself sliding down, down, down the popularity meter as the school year progresses. What’s worse, some of his antics actually cause Rowley to leap over his nerd classification and become something of a sixth grade hero, even worse for Greg’s fragile, beaten ego.
Screenwriters Jackie Filgo, Jeff Filgo, Gabe Sachs, and Jeff Judah have retained some of the flavor of the cartoon-illustrated Jeff Kinney books in bringing the story to the big screen, but in fact more of those James Thurber-like doodles and diary excerpts might have been welcome instead of the fierce exaggeration that’s employed throughout the script. Not only do Greg’s attempts to be cool come to naught, but the failures are always overstated into huge humiliations every time, a repetitive situation that tends to lose a bit of its sharpness and original humor as the film proceeds. There’s no denying, however, that the Halloween sequence is beautifully shot and sustained (especially a sojourn through the scary “Devil Worshipper” Woods). Some scenes don’t quite reach their maximum potential: the school production of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz could have had sharper writing and more humor without resorting to slapstick and chaos. Greg’s fall from grace in losing his best friend, however, is keenly realized and nicely enacted bringing the over-exaggerated movie down to earth with some tender, believable realism. And the constant battles with sardonic older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick) are something every younger brother in the audience can easily identify with.
Zachary Gordon is a real find as Greg. His ego isn’t so big as to be off-putting (getting constantly shamed aids in retaining audience sympathy), and his desperation to fit in and his frustration as his plans flop one after another are keenly observed. Robert Capron also shines as the innocent kid who doesn’t let his inner geek keep him from being himself and thus inevitably triumphing by simply being himself. Grayson Russell is scary-good as the creepy classmate who’s avoided like the plague while Laine MacNeil’s loudmouth Patty will remind one of Charlie Brown’s Lucy. Less successful (due mainly to inadequate writing of the character) is Chloe Grace Moretz as Angie Steadman, the student who stands apart from all the uproar as merely an observer. Devon Bostick makes a grandly evil older brother while Steve Zahn does well with some underplayed lines as the father of the clan.
The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in 1080p using the AVC codec. Though color is bright and bold and flesh tones are accurately rendered, sharpness is inconsistent in this transfer. For every scene that sports excellent sharpness, vivid contrast, and spiffy detail, there are others that seem more diffuse and soft making viewing something of a frustrating experience from time to time. It’s certainly an immaculate transfer as it should be taken from such a recent source, but one is a bit disappointed that this is merely a good rather than a great video encode. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix does not make the most of its entire surround soundfield. As with many comedies, the front soundstage gets the most attention with music and sound effects spread nicely into the left and right channels and dialogue well recorded and firmly anchored into the center. The rear channels, however, get little play in this release with only some music and a sound effect occasionally spilling into the rears. There is some notable LFE use on occasion, but the frontcentric focus of the sound design is very noticeable and something of a letdown.
The audio commentary is furnished by director Thor Freudenthal and screenwriter Gabe Sachs. They have an easy camaraderie that makes their conversation a pleasure to listen to even if the details they express carry no real amount of surprise. Obviously, everyone is great, and the film was a pleasure to make, but we’ve heard this kind of commentary many times before.
There are ten deleted scenes which must be watched individually (there is no “play all” feature). None of the scenes are necessary for the film (even if some were used in the trailer but not the finished movie). There is one enjoyable outtake that features several of Rowley’s lame “Zoo-Wee Mama” cartoons that are so pitiful that they’re funny.
The film’s theatrical trailer is presented in 1080p and runs 1 ¾ minutes.
The disc also provides 1080p trailers for Ramona and Beezus, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Marmaduke, Marley & Me: The Terrible 2’s, Tooth Fairy, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
The second disc in the set is the DVD copy of the movie.
The third disc in the set is the digital copy of the movie with enclosed instructions for installation on Mac and PC devices.
A note on packaging: the Blu-ray disc case comes with a slipcover featuring Rowley’s Diary with text and cartoons that contain some additional fun.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid may not have all the charm and wit of the Jeff Kinney books, but the saga has made a reasonably entertaining trip to the big screen with wonderful performances and some painful memories of the middle school experience intact. The Blu-ray video and audio aren’t optimum nor are the bonus features overly generous, but it’s still worth a look and listen.