Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
Summer is over and Greg (Zachary Gordon), Rowley (Robert Capron), Fregley (Grayson Russell) and Chirag (Karan Brar) are heading back to class. Having survived their first year of middle school in Diary of a Wimpy Kid, they aren’t quite so worried about the bell ringing, especially when they meet the new girl Holly Hills (Peyton List).
But this sequel spends far less time in the classroom than is does on the home front. Fed up with her boys constant bickering, Susan Heffley (Rachael Harris) instigates a reward scheme to help change their behavior. Promising them a Mom Dollar for every hour they spend together without fighting, she hopes to see an improvement in their relationship.
Greg’s older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick) just sees it as a get-rich-quick-scheme where all he has to do is bully Greg into never tattling on him. The first test of their "Be Nice to Your Brother" initiative comes when their parents leave them at home alone for the weekend—with strict instructions NOT to have anyone over.
It is doesn’t take any parental intuition to know that Mom and Dad (Steve Zahn) won’t even be out of the driveway before Rodrick’s text invitations start flying. Coerced into helping before he is locked in the basement, Greg isn’t quite so happy about the arrangement until he finds a way to escape. When their parents return prematurely the next morning, the boys have only an hour to clean up a mess that would realistically take the better part of day. Nevertheless Rodrick and Greg do it and then the two partners-in-crime make a pact to never reveal the events of the previous night.
Luckily these siblings have involved parents who expect family participation in school and community events, church attendance and home activities. Yet that doesn’t mean things always run smoothly. While the schoolyard bullying that was prevalent in the first film doesn’t show up as much in this one, there are some moments of mean-spirited sibling rivalry. And when Rodrick finally concedes to spending time with his younger brother, the advice he gives to Greg isn’t necessarily of the caliber that will put the younger boy on the path to success.
Still this film offers some engaging moments for both parents and kids. Having launched my own version of Mom Dollars with my children, I know the efforts parents will go to encourage peace the house. And Rachael Harris’ role as an exuberant mother plays nicely against Steve Zahn’s laidback father figure. (Laidback at least until his children mess with his Civil War figurines.)
Greg and his peers also give a nice screen presence to some film personalities that we rarely see. Rowley, though naïve, proves to be compassionate and profoundly astute about life. Fregley and Chirag add their own brand of humor and insightfulness to this little group of schoolmates. And Holly turns out to be more than just a pretty face.
Though parents likely wouldn’t want every antic in this film repeated at home, there is a glimmer of hope that somewhere in the near or distant future, these two siblings might even like each other. And what more could a mom want.