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This week:
Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Filthy says:
"Growing up's a fuckload harder than this."

I didn't go to a middle school. I was in a catholic K-through-8. By seventh grade I should have been near the top of the curricular food chain. I wasn't, though, mostly due to Lee Gruenveld and Steve Hart. Gruenveld was a greasy asshole with the moldiest braces in Blessed Spirit Parish. He didn't know his multiplication tables and once had an infected finger that swelled up like an eggplant that oozed on his homework. Hart was a mulleted, sleepy-eyed moron who thought beating me up would distract others from discovering he was barely literate. He was right about that. In fact, those two fuckers pretty much built their reign as popular kids on beating the crap out of me.

The beauty of life, though, is that it's not a sprint to high school popularity. It's a marathon run to miserable, impoverished old age. And while those pricks may have won the battle of adolescence, I'm winning the war. I have no idea where Lee and Steve are now. Maybe they're hotshot CEOs. Maybe they're policemen, or military generals. They could both be dentists, or gay lovers running an art gallery in Santa Fe. It doesn't matter; I wish them all the success in the world. I can afford to be magnanimous because I have a web site. Take that, motherfuckers. Suck the dick of me being an author right here on the Internet. How many people in the world can say they do that? Fifty, maybe sixty. Probably fewer, because web publishing is hard to get into.

The point is that my school years sucked the woolen tits of the nuns who taught me. But they clearly did no permanent damage because here I am, a success by any measure. I have a web site, and it's not even on Geocities. It's my very own. I am read by hundreds of people, and the ads generate enough money in a month to pay for two of the four times I go to the theater. Some months. My wife and I have our very own apartment that we share with a dog who we don't charge rent. We have a TV and a neighbor who loans us her vacuum. I have had cars in the past, and currently own a bicycle with seven working gears and one working brake. I married an upwardly mobile, highly-motivated woman who is assistant manager at Hancock Fabrics, and will probably own it some day. My wife is responsible for the entire button department. I probably don't need to tell you what that means: free buttons. No more holding my pants up with rope. That is in addition to her already being in charge of all sashes and window dressing.

My success is probably why I never look back in anger. Or maybe it's because that phrase is the only thing I really remember from James Thurber's writing. Whatever it is, I don't resent anyone for my grade school years. Those transgressions were a long time ago and I don't dwell on them outside of once a month researching how to hire someone to track down and kill the two fuckers who made me miserable.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is based on a series of popular and pretty fucking funny books for pre-teens about middle school. The books are vignettes in the diary-entry model, partially written, partially drawn, which is why I like them. I sort of lose track of where I am if the words in a book are tiny and not broken up by pictures. The stories are the "journal" of a kid who has reached middle school but hasn't physically matured, hasn't grown out of liking kid things and hasn't found his place in the pecking order yet. The movie follows the same formula, mostly.

Zachary Gordon plays Greg Heffley as he enters middle school. He's a small kid who wants very badly to be the most popular kid on campus. He's hampered by his best and only friend, a self-unaware fat boy (Robert Carpon) who still admits to loving his mom and rides a pink bike with a popstar's name on it. Like a typical twelve-year-old, or denizen of Arvada's Attitude Lounge, Gordon has little in the way of a moral compass. He's Machiavellian without knowing who The Prince is. In his quest to get to the top of the popularity chart, he breaks his friend's hand, lets his friend take the blame for abandoning a gang of kindergartner's while on safety patrol, and generally has no consideration for anyone else's feelings.

That's pretty much the plot of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The movie, like the book, plays out in sketches meant to illustrate the life-as-hell of adolescence. Gordon is terrorized by his older brother, terrorizes his younger brother, and is haunted by the prospect that if he becomes any less popular he'll wind up with only the weirdest, smelliest kid in school as a friend.

The thin narrative works on the page, but doesn't work on the screen. One problem is that the sketches are not particularly well woven into a story. It goes from gag to gag, and all but a couple are more cute than funny. Diary of a Wimpy Kid never puts much at stake. The plot of Gordon and Capron losing their friendship and regaining it is secondary. When they get over their differences and Gordon shows he actually can be sympathetic, the moment is more, "Oh, yeah, that," than a satisfying conclusion.

While Diary of a Wimpy Kid is supposed to commiserate with kids for how shitty and confusing middle school is, it comes across as nostalgic for yesterday. It could say something cutting and revealing about the misery of adolescence and the emphasis we all put on popularity. It could be something I can show Lee and Steve, if I ever find them, before the squad I've hired tortures them into an apology. It doesn't, though. Instead, it makes awkwardness all sweet and harmless. That's the last thing I wanted to hear about seventh grade when I was twelve. I wanted someone to understand that, no matter how petty it appeared from the outside, it was a nightmare to go through. Having kids shit in your locker or shove your teeth into the asphalt are not character-building or fond memories.

The movie turns up the saccharine a notch over the books, and as a result has no real insight into youth at all. Actually, the movie isn't meant for kids in middle-school, but for younger ones who aspire to someday be confused by puberty. It gave me the feeling that TV commercials for kids toys do. They use older kids in the commercials than the toys are meant for, so the target audience will think the toy will help them grow up faster.

Middle school isn't sweet and it isn't wholesome. It's a fucking nightmare. Anyone who says otherwise is probably selling cars or working as a janitor these days. Those of us who know better have climbed out of that pit and reached for the stars. As movie critics on the Internet. Trust me. I know, because I can hold the stars in my hands. Two Fingers for Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Want to tell Filthy Something?



Shawn Edwards of Fox TV

Brooklyn's Finest is "An absolute triumph!"

Filthy's Reading
Peter Bagnanni - House of Tomorrow

Listening to
Specials - Specials


Steamboat Bill, Jr.