Middle-school antihero Greg Heffley may depict himself as a comic illustration in Jeff Kinney’s bestselling kids’ books, but director Thor Freudenthal turns him into an outright caricature. This abysmal adaptation ticks through a predictable checklist of clichés, from home-room hell to gym-class gynecomastia.
Although similarly sneaky and self-absorbed in the novels, Greg, as played by mini-man Zachary Gordon, is hugely unappealing in his wayward bid for popularity. (Imagine Leave It to Beaver as told from the viewpoint of Eddie Haskell.) Lost is the ironic, satiric interplay between the crude drawings and the deadpan voice, with the film’s only laughs arising from a piece of cheese.
The saving grace — and the one child not gratingly overacting — is Robert Capron, baby-faced and wearing a bowl cut, as pudgy sidekick Rowley. Otherwise, this take on the ’tween quest to evade embarrassment utterly mortifies.