Middle schooler stuck in the middle

Zachary Gordon (left) is the "Wimpy Kid," and Robert Capron is his best friend. Grayson Russell is at right.

Greg Heffley deserves a special headstone in the graveyard of buried hopes that is middle school.

A foot shorter than most of his classmates, Greg (Zachary Gordon) is that picklepuss walking next to his naturally sweet best bud, Rowley (Robert Capron). Greg desperately wants to be in the social swim but fails to gauge the riptide in the lunchroom that divides self-confident kids from the less secure.

In short, Greg is the middle school Everyboy, stuck in the middle of middle school and in the middle of his family, in between the bullying older brother and the beloved baby bro.

His movie, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, based on the popular illustrated tween books by Jeff Kinney, deserves a B- for effort and a C for execution. Like Greg's journal, Diary is episodic and unformed. This is a strength in the books, engagingly illustrated with droopy stick figures who, like Greg, are yet to be fleshed out. It is a weakness in the movie, where more fully-defined characters would be helpful as guides.

The movie has workmanlike, uninspired direction from Thor Freudenthal (Hotel for Dogs), who gets an especially lovely performance from Capron, a cheery type whose character gets adopted by the cool kids precisely because he doesn't care about being cool.

Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://www.philly.com/philly/


Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Directed by Thor Freudenthal. With Chloe Moretz, Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Rachael Harris, Alex Ferris, Steve Zahn. Distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Running time: 2 hours, 0 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG (for some rude humor and language).