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Review

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

By DAN LYBARGER Special to the Democrat-Gazette

This article was published May 19, 2017 at 1:43 a.m.

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Greg Heffley (Jason Drucker) explains the meaning of underpants to his mom, Susan (Alicia Silverstone), while his mean older brother, Roderick (Charlie Wright), looks on in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

71 Cast: Jason Drucker, Alicia Silverstone, Tom Everett Scott, Charlie Wright, Chris Coppola, Owen Asztalos, Joshua Hoover

Director: David Bowers

Rating: PG, for some rude humor

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Watching Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, it's easy to imagine Amy Schumer walking up to series creator Jeff Kinney and director David Bowers and telling them, "you might be overdoing it."

No, there aren't any characters dropping F-bombs or sharing in Schumer's blunt discussion of carnality, but all too often Kinney and Bowers, who take credit for adapting Kinney's book, fall back on gross bodily functions for humor.

Having sat through all four of these movies, it's been disheartening to witness 12-year-old Greg Heffley (this time played by Jason Drucker) getting humiliated by his movies the way fate and bullies normally go after him.

Out of curiosity, I looked at one of Kinney's books and found Greg a lot more amusing in print. Much of the lad's comic misfortunes come from his compulsive need to look cool to his peers. Thanks to his naivete and quirks in destiny, his quest is inevitably futile. Nobody wants to look like a doofus, so it's often easy to empathize with Greg even if his techniques are foolishly counterproductive.

For some reason, Kinney's cartoons in the books are a lot funnier than watching flesh-and-blood actors play the same material. It might have something to do with the sense that Bowers and his predecessors have apparently instructed their actors to play each scene at a decibel level AC/DC might dub too loud.

In this installment, Greg's mother, Susan (Alicia Silverstone), badgers the rest of the clan into visiting Grandma for her 90th birthday and driving for several days to get there. Their SUV is overloaded with gear. They have to place extra stuff in the father's (Tom Everett Scott) rarely used boat and tow it like an intermodal container. It also doesn't help that Greg's older brother, Rodrick (Charlie Wright), consistently picks on Greg. If it weren't for their cellphones, the two might have the misfortune of interacting.

Susan then makes the mistake of insisting the boys and their father put away the phones during the trip. This results in a series of disasters and betrayals that make her seem like more of an ogre than a concerned mom.

Silverstone, who has been appealing in previous roles, comes off as rigid and bossy, while Scott seems evasive and squirrely for regularly conducting work behind her back. A husband and wife who can't level with each other about work and finances probably shouldn't be together. It doesn't help that Susan does foolish things on the road, like adopting a pet pig.

Meanwhile, Greg is trying to overcome the shame of having been humiliated in a viral video. He hopes to redeem himself by befriending a YouTube gaming sensation named Digby (Joshua Hoover). It will require him to skip out on Grandma's birthday, but what could be more important than getting likes in social media?

All of this leads to incidents where Bowers punctuates events with unfortunate discharges and a series of sequences that seem downright sadistic. Gross-out gags can be hilarious, but not so much here. And it's also disconcerting -- an uncanny valley-type experience -- to see the actors who look so much like Zachary Gordon and Devon Bostick, who originally played Greg and Rodrick, in these roles. It's so eerie seeing performers who resemble their now grown predecessors that it becomes hard to follow the current story.

MovieStyle on 05/19/2017

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