What You Need To Know:
The quality of acting in RODRICK RULES is serviceable. The movie’s overall quality is cut short by cheesy sets, costumes and production. Although there are several funny jokes and lines, this sequel is contrite, predictable and unsatisfying. Also, despite some positive lessons, the movie encourages misbehavior, lying and crude humor and insults. Media-wise parents probably will want to keep their children away from RODRICK’S RULES, which turn out to be rather selfish.
(PaPa, Ro, CC, Ho, B, V, N, A, MM) Strong pagan, lightly mixed worldview with excessive immorality and mixed messages, light Romantic elements with an unrequited love theme and a high value is placed on popularity, plus family attends Christian church and takes Communion but only because it’s “their turn” in line and homosexual cross-dressing humor when Indian boy dresses up as a girl to trick people into noticing him, plus lying and deception are main themes, plagiarism occurs, children rebel and disobey, sibling rivalry and fighting, and movie depicts parents as weak and ignorant, but some moral elements as mother tries to help fighting brothers get along though movie seems to send the message that as long as you’re spending time with your sibling that automatically qualifies as quality time, it doesn’t matter how idiotic or ridiculous the activity you’re doing is; no obscenities or profanities but light vulgarities, scatological references and insults such as “jerk,” “lousy,” “lame,” “poop,” “wimp,” “you’re dead,” “I hate my brother,” “Loserville,” and “farted” plus main character is taped to a toilet and brothers prank people with fake vomit; light violence includes slapstick comedy, children push each other around, fight, reckless driving, and children watch scary movie; no sexual content; partial nudity when little boy at pool scene wears speedo and runs around in his underwear; alcohol use when parents drink wine at table; no smoking or drugs; and, angry older son, very rebellious behavior from children, bullying, older son engages in reckless driving; schoolchildren make fun of small Indian boy at school and ignore him by pretending he’s invisible so he tricks them to get them to notice him, older brother locks main character in basement and threatens and verbally abuses him, and brothers throw house party during parent’s absence with red cups shown but they’re only filled with Coke.
Based on the children’s novel series by Jeff Kinney, DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODRICK RULES is a sequel to 2010’s DIARY OF A WIMPY KID.
The movie begins as Greg Heffley begins 7th grade at a roller-skating kickoff party and meets the new girl in school – Holly Hills – whom he immediately likes. Unfortunately, his older brother, Rodrick, determined to make Greg’s life miserable, pulls a prank on Greg, embarrassing him in front of Holly. To makes things worse, Greg’s friends, including his best friend Rowly, are just as “dorky” as ever – one even offering food that has been fished out of the trash and has other people’s gum and spits on it. They make sure to inform Greg that Holly is “out of his league.” By this point, Greg is called a jerk by a little girl for falling in her birthday cake and leaves the roller rink embarrassed and upset.
As school begins, Greg is faced with trying to rebrand his image as a “cool” 7th grader but is faced with dilemma after dilemma. During the first day of class, he’s already disliked by a teacher because he’s related to Rodrick, who has a bad reputation.
After school, Greg and Rowly decide to try to make a YouTube sensation video after watching an older lady fall off a stage online. They decide to do something ridiculous to garner attention. Rowly ends up wearing a pair of underwear on his head singing to Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” song and accidentally sitting on toothpicks that injure him.
Eyeliner-loving Rodrick is in a band called the “Loded Diper” (pronounced Loaded Diaper). His dream is to make it as a musician/drummer in his rock band. Rodrick hears about the town talent show and immediately signs up, hoping it will be his big break. Rodrick enlists the help of Bill, a thirty-something rock n’roll “loser” who still lives with his parents and has an arm full of misspelled tattoos. Greg’s best friend Rowly also signs up for the talent show as a magician.
The parents continually try to bridge the gap between Greg and Rodrick – specifically by coming up with the concept of “Mom Bucks” where the brothers get a Monopoly dollar that can be traded in for a real dollar for every hour they can spend together without fighting. Rodrick cheats, steals and buys fake Monopoly money at thrift shops, making his parents pay him real money for things he didn’t do.
On the way to church, Rodrick places a candy bar under Greg’s seat, making it look like he went to the bathroom in his pants. Once they arrive, Greg is too embarrassed to go into church, so he wears his mom’s sweater around his waist. Upon going up to receive communion, Rodrick yanks the sweater off and the congregation all think he “pooped his pants.” To prove it’s just chocolate, Greg wipes his finger on it and licks it – to which the entire church is disgusted. Embarrassed and angry, Greg jumps on Rodrick, and they get into a big fight in front of the entire church.
As punishment, the boys are forced to stay at home while their parents and younger brother go to a water park for the weekend. Even though they received explicit instructions not to have anyone over during the weekend, at the first opportunity Rodrick holds a party. He invites the entire school, while locking Greg and Rowly in the basement. Of course, the older children destroy the house.
Then, their mother calls. Greg blackmails Rodrick into letting him and Rowly become part of the party in exchange for his silence. The parents have to come home early and the boys frantically clean the house. They notice too late that the bathroom door has been destroyed and quickly replace the door with one that does not have a lock.
Even though they are repeatedly confronted by the parents, both boys deny anything happened and continue to lie, or as they put it “deny.” Eventually, the mother realizes the bathroom door is wrong, confronts Greg and he tells her about the party. However, instead of losing the good relationship he and Rodrick have begun to form, he convinces his mother not to tell their father and not let Rodrick know that he spilled the beans, all for the sake of brotherly love. The mother, although she had spoken out against lying throughout the movie, agrees to lie to the husband and son.
During this time, Greg and Rodrick are becoming closer and bonding, so Greg is getting picked on less. They spend an entire evening pranking people with fake vomit – including their P.E. teacher. Rodrick teaches Greg his three rules:
1. Don’t be good at something you don’t want to do.
2. Always lower mom and dad’s expectations.
3. Never do something someone else can do for you.
Also during this time, Greg has turned from the victim to the bully – making fun of his dorky “loser” friends and pretending that Gupta, his Indian friend, is completely invisible. The entire school plays along. Everyone considers Gupta invisible and ignores him.
Meanwhile, Greg still likes Holly, but she doesn’t notice him. He then receives a note in his locker supposedly from her, but when he goes to meet her, it’s really Gupta dressed up as Holly as a way to get Greg to break the joke and admit he’s not invisible.
Eventually, the father finds pictures of the party the brothers had over the weekend and confronts everyone. Rodrick is mad at Greg, and the father is mad at the mother for lying. As punishment, Rodrick can no longer perform in the talent show and the boys have to spend time with their grandfather in a retirement community for the weekend.
Wonderfully enough, Holly Hills also happens to be there visiting her grandmother. She apologizes to Greg for calling him the wrong name at school, and they bond over being the picked-on middle child. Greg writes about how much he likes Holly in his diary and goes to bed wearing only his underwear.
In the morning, Rodrick steals Greg’s diary and forces Greg to run after him in his underwear to try to retrieve it. Greg ends up in the older ladies bathroom and gets called a Peeping Tom but gets his diary back.
The night of the talent show arrives, but Rowly’s assistant gets stage fright, leaving him in the lurch. He asks Greg but Greg doesn’t want to get embarrassed by his friend’s “lame” show. Greg’s mom urges Greg to help Rowly, but Greg refuses.
Meanwhile, Rodrick is very upset because he’s banned from playing in the talent show and his band is still going to play without him, replacing him with a new drummer. Seeing his heartache, Greg makes a deal with his mom – he will assist Rowly in the magic show if she will let Rodrick play in the band. She agrees and he and Rowly’s magic show is a success. This allows Greg to get Holly Hills to notice him and mend fences with Rodrick. And, everyone seems fairly content.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODRICK RULES is yet another children’s book that’s been poorly adapted to the screen. Its constant inference to the benefits of lying and its reliance on deceit as a catalyst for change are extremely problematic. It also lacks any form of true redemptive quality as no one ever explicitly apologizes for their behavior and changes their ways, but rather their poor choices and actions are shown as set patterns of behavior. The parent’s weak and submissive attitude towards their children’s horrid behavior, paired with unbalanced emotional reactions, come off as nearly comical and are distressing. Thus, despite the mother’s attempt to make the two brothers more kind to one another, the movie’s negative aspects seem to win out.
With a storyline that could be filled with a positive journey towards mending sibling rivalry and winning over the girl, it’s disappointing to see a children’s film that makes the cliché of throwing crazy house parties when your parents are out of town and making constant lying, valuing popularity above all else, disrespecting your parents, and general crassness the norm. The quality of acting is serviceable and the eloquence of the film is cut short by cheesy sets, costumes and production. Although there are several funny jokes and lines, there’s nothing funny about taking basic moral values out of film and not properly closing a storyline by leaving unfinished any distinct lessons or strong morals that could have been learned.