Starring Zachary Gordon, Steve Zahn. Written by Maya Forbes, Jeff Kinney, Gabe Sachs, Wallace Wolodarsky. Directed by David Bowers. G. 94 min. Opens Aug. 3.
Summer is an especially distressing time for a wimpy kid, a fact that propels Greg, the anti-hero of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, through a string of blandly mortifying incidents. The third in a series of films based on the books by Jeff Kinney, Dog Days finds Greg (Zachary Gordon) slogging through the “three-month guilt trip” that is summer vacation. While his parents, played by Rachael Harris and Steve Zahn, prod him to get outside and enjoy the sun, Greg prefers to shut the curtains, pull out a six-pack of Coke and a bag of chips and marathon through a full day of video games.
The movie’s erratic story functions like a distracted toddler, picking up one plot point only to drop it when it finds something shinier to play with. This series of set-pieces includes an opening scene at a public pool, where Greg is disgusted by the fat, hairy men in the locker room and the glut of kids cluttering up—and peeing in—the pool. When the family gets a dog, Greg holds his nose in disgust as he picks up after it. He’s not so much wimpy as incredibly squeamish.
Dog Days suffers from an unsympathetic protagonist who takes the concept of anti-hero a step too far. Greg is not an intelligent-yet-brooding tween like the heroes of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom; he’s just kind of a slug. The movie also fails to take advantage of Rachael Harris’s comedic talent (while sacrificing her figure at the altar of mom jeans), allowing her character exactly three notes: Nagging, frazzled, or pissed off. Still, Greg’s parents have the energy and zeal of a pair of 12-year-olds excited for their summer break—which makes them infinitely more enjoyable to watch than their mopey son.