A wimp fails to rise.
Told from the point-of-view of Greg (Jason Drucker) via his infamous diary, his new adventure chronicles a family road trip to visit their Meemaw (Mimi Gould) on her 72nd birthday. Susan aka Mom (Alicia Silverstone) looks at the trip as a Hefley family bonding experience, declaring it an unplugged (read: device-free) experience that doesn’t sit well with Frank aka Dad (Tom Everett Scott) or the kids. Older brother Rodrick (Charlie Wright) is limited to whining about getting his van fixed — who gave this kid a license? — while unfortunately named younger brother Manny (Dylan and Matt Walters) is treated like a pet requiring constant supervision. The only thing making the trip worthwhile for Greg is a secret plan to abandon his family to a local gamer convention for a photo opp with YouTube hero Mac Digby (Joshua Hoover) in a continuing inexplicable quest for fame and popularity; what could possibly go wrong with that?
Based upon the books of the same name — and the three films that came before — this installment introduces a whole new cast. The production skews toward the main character to inform its presumed target audience, but the humor in the trailers seem more akin to a sanitized children’s show than anything appealing to a middle-schooler. Was the demand for more of these kinds of movies really out there, or is this what we’ll have to suffer through as ‘tween programming until another dystopian fantasy with a new chosen girl pops up?
Was Alicia Silverstone in 1960s grandma-glasses supposed to make her believably mom-like? Did Tom Everett Scott really need the money? Animator-turned-director David Bowers was responsible for Flushed Away and AstroBoy — not to mention two previous Diary movies with the exception of the original — so should we blame the writers? No wait: this production’s writers were Bowers and original creator Jeff Kinney (his first credited attempt at a screenplay instead of just writing and drawing the book). You know how people say Stephen King really shouldn’t direct his own stuff for the big screen? Yeah… that.
You can tell the “parents” are hamming it up — the kid main characters are supposed to be more clever — but no one here seems intelligent at all. A child comes into a hotel room in his underwear after being out all night and his parents shrug? Mom gives her kids money at a strange fairground in the middle of an unfamiliar town and tells them to “go country it up” all by themselves, not even watching out for each other? Dad literally abandons a toddler with his middle-school kid to call work? In the name of tepid humor at best, Long Haul runs the gambit from stranger-danger to chasing down a moving vehicle with a fishtailing boat trailer, never mind the “beardo” family of re-enactors from The Hills Have Eyes popping up everywhere prompting random chase sequences.
It’s the kids film adults think kids want to see — made by adults who’ve either never had kids or can’t recall being kids themselves (which makes no sense since Diary’s creator definitely has kids). Our middle-school hero has no role-models to look up to in this incarnation, never mind any understanding from them. It’s lazy, irresponsible, and insipid. The first Diary movie was trite but never felt misleading or false; kids are smarter than adults give them credit for — smart enough to avoid and/or ignore this foolishness. Why does this even exist?
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul is rated PG for some rude humor and destroying your will to live.
Zero skull recommendation out of four