Faith Review – Diary of a Wimpy Kid
By Jeff Smith
Film Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Year: March 19, 2010
Directed by Thor Freudenthal who has done mostly short films such as, Monkey Business (1996), The Tenor (1998), and Motel (2005). Also directed Hotel for Dogs (2009). Freudenthal tends to direct family comedies that connect with everyday life situations.
Original Release Form/Venue:
Originally released for theaters and is based off writer, Jeff Kinney’s novel, Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
Current Availability and Formats:
Released onto DVD on and was released onto Blu-ray Disc on August 3, 2010. Available on Netflix. Clips available through Wingclips.com and Hulu.com.
Family Comedy – PG, 94 Minutes
The plot of the film is central as Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), finds middle school to be the dumbest idea ever invented. It’s a place rigged with hundreds of social land mines, not the least of which are morons, wedgies, swirlies, bullies, lunchtime banishment to the cafeteria floor – and a festering piece of cheese with cooties. To survive the never-ending ordeal and attain the recognition and status he feels he so richly deserves, Greg devises an endless series of can’t-miss schemes, all of which, of course, turn ugly. And he’s getting it all down on paper, via a diary, or as he calls it, a journal. Thus, the diary of a wimpy kid is formed out of his experiences of his first year of middle school.
The film is narrated from Greg’s perspective as it goes back and forth from the story itself and to his thoughts and feelings about what is transpiring.
Greg is the star vehicle of the film as he learns how to deal with the embarrassments of middle school while trying to climb the social ladder. Greg’s character continually bombs at everything he tries, and winds up being at the low end of the social ladder. Meanwhile, his best friend, Rowley Jefferson (Robert Capron), is also a central character who comes across as elementary and immature, but finds social status easier than Greg, due to Greg’s ridiculous schemes. Their back and forth relationship lead the film forward.
Film Language Elements:
The film uses camera shots and angles to enhance the particular focus of the scenes. It foreshadows a story about a piece of cheese that causes anyone who touch it to be outcast. Throughout particular scenes of the movie the camera will focus on the cheese and blur out everything around it, or it will zoom in on it. This one camera shot foreshadows the end of the film, involving the cheese. The camera also focuses on the faces of the actors/actresses in the film emphasizing the awkwardness of middle school.
The film uses a lot of cuts to change from scene to scene, and the speed of motion of the film builds upon itself as Greg rapidly declines down the social mess of middle school, which eventually leads him to take action with his best friend Rowley.
Audience/Cultural Context Elements:
This film is a family movie and is intended to draw middle school and elementary age children to watch. The film uses the over exaggeration of middle school to bring humor and use Greg as a “Ferris Buehler” gone bad. In it’s portrayal of Greg and his decline and hatred of middle school, it deals with the issues of middle school life – popularity, friendship, identity, etc… to connect with students who find themselves in similar situations.
Theology is Found:
Theology is found intentionally but not explicitly in the film. For instance when Greg realizes that Rowley dresses like a child, he decides that if he can just “fix” him, that it will increase his popularity. So he goes through his wardrobe throwing out clothes that are not acceptable to wear. Greg’s decision to do this shows his manipulation of his friend for his own benefit, while not accepting his friend for who he is.
Theological Themes for Conversation:
Popularity – striving to be liked and recognized by others
Peer Pressure – what is “cool” vs. what is not
“Fixing” others to fit in and be accepted
Friendship – what is a real friend?
Telling the truth – struggling with telling the truth when it lands you in trouble
Bullying – being treated as unequal or unimportant
Being outcast – not being welcomed into a group
Identity – is it really okay to be yourself?
Suggested Use of Film:
This film is best used as an illustration or example of theological themes that are present.
Recommended Amount/Parts of Film to View & How to View It:
This film could be watched in its entirety and then discussed as a group. I think this would be a great movie for a middle school retreat weekend, where it is shown in its entirety the first night and then during the keynote sessions, it could be used as clips to talk about the specific themes that are present and to unpack them.
Otherwise, I would suggest using particular clips for one session lessons. Doing so, will require you to setup the scene and explain what is going on.
This is a great film to use with a middle school youth group, or even to use with high school students to teach specific topics.