By Mark Saldana

Rating: 1.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

As far as this film series goes, I found the first film likable, but nothing exceptional, and  the second movie less interesting and forgettable.  With a brand new cast, director David Bowers is back with a third installment and things just happen to get worse in terms of writing, direction and acting.  Now I realize I am not the target demographic for this comedy film, but I can honestly see some intelligent pre-teens getting turned off by the ridiculous attempts at humor, and perhaps, even feeling insulted. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul actually gets off to a promising  start with some moderately funny situations, but eventually jumps too many sharks along the way.

Not too much has changed for Greg Heffley (Jason Drucker).  He thinks his parents are lame.  His older brother Rodrick always gives him grief, and as much as he tries to be a “cool kid,” something always goes horribly wrong.  After embarrassing himself at a family restaurant and the video goes viral, Greg desperately wants to redeem himself.  With his family planning to take a road trip to visit his grandmother for her 90th birthday, Greg gets the wild idea to sneak away during the trip so that he can attend a video game convention where he can capture himself on video looking cool.  However, as typical in Greg’s life, things never go according to plan.

Written by Jeff Kinney, David Bowers, and Adam Sztykiel, based on Kinney’s novel, The Long Haul is a movie I found increasingly irritating and frustrating as I followed the Heffley’s on this ridiculous road trip.  As far as road trip stories go, Kinney and Bowers have nothing new to offer.  The events that take place come across like a kid-friendly National Lampoon’s Vacation, but even more ludicrous, and with each new gag becoming less funny than the last.  The humor plays out so over-the-top with slapstick pratfalls that often feel forced with no comic timing whatsoever.  The story has a little bit of heart, but it gets muddled with the overload of comedic failures.  Bowers has a decent cast, particularly the adult actors who have shown some talent in other movies; however, the director can’t seem to get a good performance out of them here.

Well, to be fair, Jason Drucker is actually not bad as the main character Greg Heffley.  In fact, he probably delivers the best performance of the film with a likable charm and great screen presence.  Charlie Wright, on the other hand, overacts too much as Greg’s older brother Rodrick.  Wright forcefully performs as the dimwitted, rocker wannbe, and it all feels so unnatural.  As the parents, Tom Everett Scott and Alicia Silverstone also come across as they are straining their acting chops just to get through their scenes.  Though Drucker is fine as the new Greg, I must say I preferred Steve Zahn and Rachael Harris as the parents and Devon Bostick who makes a more convincing Rodrick.

However, with such a poorly written script and story, I am not sure having the original cast members would have saved this doozy of a dud.  Should the producers behind this franchise decide to adapt more of Kinney’s novels, I feel it would be best if they hire a better director and some talented screenwriters to do it.  I would also keep Jason Drucker, but recast the parents and Rodrick.  The Long Haul and this franchise are definitely both in need of an overhaul.



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