Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul – What went wrong?

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While it does have a few positive qualities (emphasis on the ‘few’) Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul has been generally recognised as garbage. So what went wrong?

From acting to comedy to actual story content, David Bowers’ Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul has quite the list of massive flaws. So what changed from the first three films, to the fatal fourth? Glad you asked. Let’s discuss.

Responses to the Wimpy Characters and Casting

The casting change was obviously necessary and yet almost just as obviously detrimental to 20th Century Fox’s Wimpy Kid film franchise. The casting concerns are rooted deeper than the fact that every main character of the story has been taken on by a new actor or actress; the majority of the cast from the previous films were simply better suited to playing the characters from Jeff Kinney’s book series.

Help the Hefflies. Source: 20th Century Fox.

Main characters such as Greg Heffley, Frank Heffley, Rodrick Heffley, and Rowley Jefferson were ruined primarily because the actors could simply not pull off a truly, aesthetically hectic family scenario. About the only characters whose roles were acted out well were Susan Heffley (Mom), Manny Heffley, and the gamer Digby.

Greg’s mom was probably the character with the strongest personality out of the whole film. Actress Alicia Silverstone really nailed that character. She is a key character as she is always active and taking the lead. She plans, she speaks her mind, she explains, and she lays down the rules. So initially, at least from the kids’ view, she seems rather demanding. But as Greg learns later, his mom also has feelings and concerns.

Alicia Silverstone as Greg’s Mom. Source: 20th Century Fox.

Digby’s role was an obnoxious one, and Joshua Hoover pulled off that personality well. Manny (who’s actually portrayed by two young child actors: Dylan Walters and Wyatt Walters) was not too big of a character until nearing the close of the movie when he starts speaking Spanish, which absolutely nobody expected, and he got the Heffley family out of a jam.

While touching on the element of family, it is here I will mention perhaps the best element this movie has going for it: family. The primary lesson someone can take away from watching The Long Haul is that coming together and working as a family unit can make everyone happy and get things done.

In the movie, Greg (a.k.a. “Diaper Hands”) finally inspires the family to persevere, have hope, and work together to reach their party destination.

The Other Enjoyments and Letdowns

Greg and Rowley from One of the Older Movies. Source: 20th Century Fox.

To me, Greg and his pal Rowley were the star attraction of the previous films, along with frequent interference from Greg’s older brother Rodrick, who has dreams of being a great rock n’ roll drummer. In Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, Rowley is almost entirely absent except for a few minutes in the beginning of the movie.

Rowley plays such an insignificant part in this feature film because the whole plot is based around the great “Heffley road trip.” The movie is about a family, the Hefflies, and I was okay with that aspect of it. I was just disappointed that an enjoyable character was pretty much cut from the movie.

Greg and Rowley in The Long Haul (2017). Source: 20th Century Fox.

As mentioned earlier, the new cast just wasn’t the right fit for the old characters. The actors of the original films, Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, and Steve Zahn, played the male members of the Heffley clan far better than the members of the current cast.

In regards to content issues, there is a sequence in which Greg shows Rodrick a photo of a scantily clad woman on his phone which gets a rise out of Rodrick – whose character had looked at similar suggestive material in a previous film. If your family upholds modesty, then maybe skip this scene.

The script writing was lacking to say the least. The Long Haul movie was not as funny as the original Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010). The humour that was not dry was crass, and I am definitely beyond the so-called “toilet humour” exercised in this movie. So it was meant as a family friendly or kid friendly entertainment, but as always some unnecessary (often weirdly inappropriate) content shows up.

Greg Heffley – the Wimpy Kid. Source: 20th Century Fox.

Personally, there were a few funny highlights in the film. One example is the clip in which Rodrick pushes a sign against the van window that reads, “Help!! These peeple r kidnaping us!” and he acts sorrowful. (By the way, the terrible spelling Rodrick has fits the character in the older movies.)

This incident leads to the the Heffley’s being pulled over and reprimanded by a police officer. Another comical part involves Greg accidentally dropping an open bag of orange cheese puffs into the hot tub, turning almost his entire body orange.

I liked a few of the brief references made to some of the past films such as when you see a slice of cheese lying on the ground, a rat walking by it, and the rodent snubbing its nose at it and refusing to touch it. That brought to mind the “cheese touch.”

I also liked that at the beginning of the movie the characters transformed from their diary drawings into their live-action personalities just as they had done in the previous films.

On the other hand, the references made to the old horror movie Psycho displays a lack of story development and originality.

To conclude, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul is littered with mediocrity (and some bits worse than mediocrity). I don’t think this is going to become a classic any time soon.

You can find a full review here.

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