Monday, March 28, 2011

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

MPAA (G) CNS/USCCB (A-1) Mike Phillips (2 stars) Fr Dennis (2 stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Mike Phillips’ review -,0,7565114.column

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (directed by David Bowers) caught my eye because it was a kid/family oriented movie, received good reviews and scored #1 in the box office in the United States in its first weekend in the theaters. It is the second movie made following the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series of cartoon novels written by Jeff Kenney.

Centered on the life of Gregory Heffley (played by Zachary Gordon) entering the 7th grade in this movie and his family. Gregory is the middle of three brothers. He’s tormented by his older brother Rodrick (played by Devon Bostick) who’s in High School, already drives, and is the drummer in a garage band (calling itself Löded Dyper) made up mostly of his high school buddies. And Rodrick generally thinks of himself as being far cooler/worldly than Gregory. Gregory then has a younger brother, who seems to get away with everything because he’s only fffrreee (3). So Gregory has kind of the worst of both worlds in the sibbling pecking order. His best friend is Rowley Jefferson (played by Robert Capron) who’s similarly geeky but perhaps more at piece with it. Mom and Dad are Rachell Harris and Steve Zahn. Mom writes an advice column on parenting in the local, suburban paper and both Mom and Dad suffer from trying to be both "in control" of their household and "cool," which anyone who would be looking from the outside (ie the audience) would immediately realize is pretty much impossible. Thus the stage is set for many painfully funny situations.

I am not the only one writing about this film who’s noticed this, but one thing that’s somewhat strange about the portrayal of this family and the town that its from is that it is almost utterly white. Down to the school kids, teachers, neighbors, roller rink patrons, the _only_ person of color in the entire movie is an Indian classmate of Gregory’s named Chirag Gupta (played by Karan Brar). And he flies back to India for a number of weeks during the film, so it’s signaled that he’s "rich" (that is, probably an upper Brahman cast, that is a member of the "original Aryans"). Between that, the "umlaut" on the "Löded Dyper" band name and even Mom’s glasses and hair-style that progressively make her look more and more like Sarah Palin, one wonders if the movie was _purposefully_ cast to appeal to a _white-conscious_ pro-Palin demographic or was purposefully subverted by those doing the casting _to lampoon_ that demographic.

Honestly, I think it could go either way. But the utter lack of non-Aryan "people of color" felt weird, especially since the movie would have worked in most demographics.

Then as a Catholic priest, I did find the Church scene amusing because it was clearly Protestant "with some Catholic trappings thrown in." It was Protestant because, first there was no altar and second it’s been my experience that pretty much the _only_ Catholics who dress up in their "Sunday best" in the United States today are actually African American or Haitian (face it, most American Catholics going to Mass today go as slobs and that goes for even funerals and holidays). But the service had "Catholic trappings" because the Congregants in the movie went up to receive Communion, dispensed "to the hand" from Protestant looking collection plates. The attempt appeared to "try" to be "respectful" of both Protestants and Catholics but in a way that again could be interpreted as either pandering to or lampooning a white "Palin nation" demographic now utterly scrubbed clean in that Church of any non-whites.

So would I recommend this movie? Sure, the gags are fun. But if I were Asian (Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese), Black or Hispanic, I’d just find the movie stunningly devoid of people like me.

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