Saturday, August 4, 2012

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days [2012]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-I)  Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (directed by David Bowers, screenplay by Gabe Sachs along with Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky based on the children's book series Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney [IMDb]) is the third installment in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise and IMHO _much_ better (if still racially problematic) than the second installment called Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick's Rules [2011].

Indeed, the previous film began what became a year long preoccupation of mine on this blog regarding the presentation of race in contemporary American children's films.  The almost complete absence of people of color in that second installment had frankly stunned me, especially since nearly half or even _over half_ of the children in the United States today are "of color."

Indeed, the only person of color in "Rodrick's Rules" was that of the "rich Indian kid" named Chirag (played by Karan Barr) who returns (mercifully actually with a much smaller role) in the third film.  In that second film, aside from poor little Chirag (or actually "super rich" Chirag, who actually everyone else in the film was given the permission to _pick-on_.  Honestly how unbelievably appalling that was!!), one could count _on less than one hand_ the number of "people of color" appearing in the film _even as extras_ or _even simply standing somewhere in the background_ in the films shots.  Again, I just found that simply unbelievable.   

This third installment seems to do much better in this regard.  True, the main cast of the series had already been set -- and they were all cast white except for that poor little rich Indian kid.  So not much can be done there.

HOWEVER, the film makers did do two things that help to mitigate the oversight.  (1) In the larger group shots in the film, there almost always some African American extras present.  So the film is no longer "bleached white."  (2) Many times during the course of the film, the film-makers purposefully refer back to the drawings of the children's books in which the "stick figure" drawings in the books are largely drawn in a non-racial sort of way.

Still, I do have to note that the ONLY person of color (except for Chirag) who's given a line to say in the entire third installment is "the receptionist at the country club" to which one of the families in the story belonged.  THAT'S IT, though I suppose _one could say_ that the lack of African American and Hispanic characters of consequence in the story _could_ become an opportunity for film-going families (both "of color" and "white") to discuss with their children why this would be so:  Why would the only African American in the entire picture (and there were no Hispanics at all) be shown as working as the "receptionist" at the "good white people's country club?"

Still, believe it or not, I continue to maintain that this was _better_ than that second installment where no one "of color" except for that poor little rich Indian child had a line or was even present in the picture at all.

And while there were no Hispanics at all even in the third installment, at least part of the plot of the third installment involved the holding of a "sweet sixteen" party for the older sister of one of the characters in the story, which _could_ hint at the Hispanic tradition holding Quinceañera celebrations for Hispanic girls turning 15.  Having presided at something like 4-5 dozen Quinceñera Masses over the years, I would say that since the Hispanic Quinceañera celebrations are so tied-up with both Church and Community (there's a whole "court" of the girl's friends that are called in to participate) the Quinceañera celebrations are generally far nicer, more positive celebrations than the somewhat snobby and certainly "religion free" "sweet sixteen" celebration depicted in this film.  Still at least the presence of the "sweet sixteen" party in the plot of the story could allow Hispanic viewers to think of their own Quinceañera traditions.

Yet I keep trying to say that this third installment is actually better than the second one.  How?  I suppose it's in the interaction between the main characters, the main character / "wimpy kid" George Heffley (played by Zachary Gordon) who'd really just prefer spending his time playing video-games indoors in front of his TV, and his dad Frank (played by Steve Hahn) who'd really like to see him more outdoors, even though he himself wasn't exactly "cool" or particularly athletic when he was young.  There's also George's best friend Rowley Jefferson (played by Robert Capron) and his somewhat snooty parents.  Finally there's George's older and though he thinks that he's so cool, actually quite lame brother Rodrick (played by Devon Bostik) and George's sincere but Sarah Palin-like mother Susan (played by Rachael Harris).  And in this installment, the Heffleys also get a rather entertaining / problematic dog...

It's all quite good / fun actually.  I just honestly wish it didn't all remain so obviously (and needlessly) "white."  It's 2012.  We should honestly be beyond this by now.

<< NOTE - Do you like what you've been reading here?  If you do then consider giving a small donation to this Blog (sugg. $6 _non-recurring_) _every so often_ to continue/further its operation.  To donate just CLICK HERE.  Thank you! :-) >>

No comments:

Post a Comment