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'Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules' review: Two strikes and this series is out

*1/2 (out of four)

Seventh grader Greg Heffley’s (Zachary Gordon) life would be hopelessly awkward and insecure without constant harassment from his d-bag older brother, Rodrick (Devin Bostick). Mom (Rachael Harris) and Dad (Steve Zahn) want the boys to bond; Greg wants to cozy up to a new cutie in school, Holly Hills (Peyton List). Her adult movie-esque name sounds like a teen boy’s fantasy, not the innocence aimed for in Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” novels.

The buzz: I had to re-read my own review to remember that 2010’s harmless “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” was, apparently, an occasionally insightful coming-of-age story that tried way too hard to be funny. I’m not surprised that the sequel couldn’t bring back co-star Chloe Moretz (“Kick-Ass,” “Let Me In”), who’s now got more important things to do.

The verdict: If only the movie were about Greg’s best friend, Rowley (Robert Capron), whose total lack of self-consciousness ultimately makes people realize he’s cool for just being himself. Greg, on the other hand, is a selfish, whiny kid who doesn’t respect his grandpa. Rodrick’s fixated on his terrible band, Loded Diper, and being lazy in the least charismatic way possible. The siblings’ adventures don’t involve important (or funny) rites of passage, just fake vomit and hosting a “scandalous”/perfectly tame party (no booze, just Coke and orange juice) while the folks are out of town. By the time Greg’s in his underwear in the women’s bathroom of a retirement community, I wouldn’t have minded if the old women calling him a “peeping tom” smacked some sense into him.

Did you know? Sometimes when a movie doesn’t entertain, you have to rely on other methods. On that note, I thank the woman in the audience whose laugh—demonstrated far more times than the film deserved—sounded like Woody Woodpecker’s impression of a cuckoo clock (“Huh-huh-HEH!”). Unforgettable.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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