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The Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series on Blu-ray: Diary of a Wimpy Kid • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (2012) movie poster Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

Theatrical Release: August 3, 2012 / Running Time: 94 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: David Bowers / Writers: Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky (screenplay); Jeff Kinney (book)

Cast: Zachary Gordon (Greg Heffley), Steve Zahn (Frank Heffley), Robert Capron (Rowley Jefferson), Devon Bostick (Rodrick Heffley), Rachael Harris (Susan Heffley), Peyton List (Holly Hills), Grayson Russell (Fregley), Karan Brar (Chirag Gupta), Laine MacNeil (Patty J. Farrell), Connor Fielding (Manny Heffley), Owen Fielding (Manny Heffley), Melissa Roxburgh (Heather Hills), Phil Hayes (Stan Warren), Terence Kelly (Grandpa Heffley), Bronwen Smith (Mrs. Jefferson), Alf Humphreys (Mr. Jefferson), Elise Gatien (Madison), John Shaw (Mr. Draybick), Andrew McNee (Coach Malone), Tom Stevens (Lenwood Heath)

Buy Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy • DVD • Trilogy DVD • Instant Video

It took fifteen years to go from Men in Black to Men in Black 3. The Dark Knight Rises and Madagascar 3 hit theaters seven years after their series were launched.
Meanwhile, the smallest of the summer's threequels, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, arrived just over two years after this bestselling youth novel franchise first made the leap to feature films.

In this age of tentpoles, the Wimpy Kid films are an anomaly. Inexpensively made for around $20 million a film, these adaptations of Jeff Kinney's book series succeed not with 3D, superheroes, or computer animation, but old-fashioned family-friendly comedy driven by relatable characters and situations. The prevailing wisdom in show business has been that you need a high-concept hook to succeed. This series proves otherwise, offering nothing more than the rare animated stick drawing likeness of characters. It is basically the feature film version of a sitcom and the extremely episodic Dog Days feels like an entire season of television crammed into a standard 90-minute runtime.

Rowley Jefferson (Robert Capron) and Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) are excited to spend a summer day at the amusement park.

The series extends its streak of not having to recast. All of the principals from last year's Rodrick Rules are back. As always, the focus remains on Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), the titular wimpy middle schooler. This installment opens on Memorial Day, with just a week until school lets out. Greg is excited for summer vacation, which he plans to spend glued in front of the television playing video games around the clock. He gets just a day of that before his father (Steve Zahn) pulls all the plugs, declaring video games and television off-limits. Dad wants Greg to play outside like he did as a kid and like the strapping neighbor kids do.

After quickly running through some potential diversions that don't pan out -- a father-son fishing trip and Civil War reenactment, a Reading Is Fun book club that Mom (Rachael Harris) launches with Little Women -- Greg finally finds a suitable place for him to spend summer: the Plainview Heights Country Club, where his best friend Rowley (Robert Capron) is a member. Faced with the possibility of an unpaid summer internship at Dad's workplace and the threat of being enrolled at Spag Union Prep School in the fall, Greg lies and says he's got a job at the country club. That allows him to enjoy the sparsely-populated pool, waiter service with smoothies, and frequent encounters with his classmate crush Holly (Peyton List), who is teaching kids tennis there.

Adapted from the third and fourth of Kinney's seven and counting novels, Dog Days is kind of all over the place, as it tries to make use of all established characters, including Greg's teenaged brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick) and his rock band Lφded Diper, younger brother Manny (Connor and Owen Fielding), enthusiastic tomboy Patty Farrell (Laine MacNeil), nerdy classmates Fregley (Grayson Russell) and Chirag (Karan Brar), while also introducing some new ones, like an unruly dog named Sweetie and Holly's self-centered big sister Heather (Melissa Roxburgh), who Greg aptly describes as "Rodrick in a dress."

Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) and his father (Steve Zahn) use Mom's pot roast to lure the family's new dog Sweetie away from Manny's blanket Tingy. To the surprise of Rodrick (Devin Bostick), Lφded Diper's Sweet 16 party cover of Justin Bieber's "Baby" does not go as planned.

Still, there is enough to easily distinguish each of the films in this series. The first dealt squarely with school issues: gym class, the playground, and the like. The second focused on Greg's complicated relationship with Rodrick. And this one places its greatest interest in Greg's relationship with his father. That is good news for Steve Zahn fans, who get to see the '90s breakout actor and formerly go-to comic relief do more than just look fatherly at the dinner table. Zahn, who hasn't made a film outside this franchise since joining it, does a nice job, giving the film a bit of heart and multi-generational appeal.

Otherwise, it's a standard addition to this series. There are some scattered funny moments (a gag involving Greg's "starter" cell phone and Rowley's family's games) among the routine moments of embarrassment and bevy of pop songs that culminating with Lφded Diper's Sweet 16 party performance of Justin Bieber's "Baby." There is a slight dip in quality from the last movie.
Commercially, that is all that was experienced as well, with summer legs offsetting a slower start to yield a respectable $49 million gross (with an additional $28 M overseas) that was just barely short of Rodrick's $52.7, whose budget was barely raised.

I'm not convinced we need to see further adaptations, even if everyone appears to be having fun and the movies are, at their worst, harmless and unremarkable. Despite the speed with which these have been churned out, Gordon is still clearly entering his awkward pubescent phase here. Capron's newest IMDb pictures suggest he too has grown up. Even if you doubt that better things await these two and their fellow cast members, it might not be a bad idea to call it quits before the series loses its charm and overstays its welcome. I for one would prefer more family movies in the same vein than more of these particular movies. It's too bad that Fox appears to be the only studio these days interested in making live-action family-friendly movies that aren't burdened with costs and expectations while determined to be the next best thing.

The shift from spring theatrical release to late summer makes Dog Days perfectly timed for Christmas gift giving. The film hit home video this week in a DVD and in the two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy reviewed here.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.35:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), 5.1 DTS (Italian), Dolby Digital 5.1 (DVS, French, Spanish, Portuguese)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Descriptive Video Service), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Spanish, French)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish; Blu-ray only: French, Portuguese, Italian
Not Closed Captioned; Blu-ray Extras Subtitled in English and Italian
Release Date: December 18, 2012 / Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9) / Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as DVD ($29.98 SRP), in DVD 3 Pack ($39.98 SRP), Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Picture and sound are both terrific on Fox's Dog Days Blu-ray. Neither the 2.35:1 widescreen video nor the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio suffers from any major issues whatsoever, nor should they on a 2012 studio film. The video maintains a tiny bit of appropriate grain.

Greg is stuck listening to a boring phone call between another mother and his own (Rachael Harris). Greg Heffley plays a joke on Rowley in the animated short "Class Clown."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

In HD unless otherwise noted and in a change for Fox with English (and randomly, Italian) subtitles (even on commentary!), the Blu-ray's extras begin with ten deleted scenes (9:43). These include a mix of standalone scenes (like Greg having to endure his mother's boring phone call and an alternate ending) and scenes that would have added to existing bits. The content is joined by terse optional commentary from David Bowers the animation veteran who directed this movie and Rodrick Rules before it.

Prominently advertised on the case, "Class Clown" (2:57) is an animated short narrated in character by Zachary Gordon and featuring the signature illustration style. It's a nice inclusion.

"FX Movie Channel Presents Wimpy Empire" (9:55, SD) celebrates the book and film series. Author Jeff Kinney and his family discuss the real experiences that have influenced his novels and Kinney's life.

Jeff Kinney talks about his books, his life, and his office in the FX Movie Channel special "Wimpy Empire." Ask a kid to wash his hands in a urinal and you're bound to get gag reel material.

A gag reel (5:01) supplies the usual amusing goofs,
as well as the unpredictability of small kids, dogs, and stunts.

David Bowers also provides an audio commentary on the entire film. Fortunately, he has more to say about it than the deleted scenes, as he sustains a screen-specific chat in his British accent. He talks about finding things for characters to do, the young cast's growth spurts, the cast dynamics, continuity, subtle movie magic (using digital effects to remove Fregley from the book club scene and put ants on Greg's hand, filming a camping scene on a soundstage), and shooting in Vancouver. This isn't a movie with obvious demand for a director's commentary, but Bowers makes this pretty painless.

Dog Days' theatrical trailer (1:47) is kindly included in HD and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.

The Blu-ray opens with promos for Fox Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D in between trailers for Parental Guidance and Ice Age: Continental Drift. All four of those are individually accessible from the Sneak Peek menu along with trailers for Chasing Mavericks and Crooked Arrows. A trailer for Blue Sky's Epic is found on the Blu-ray, but not disc-accessible.

Though studios appear to be phasing out BD-Live, this Blu-ray has a section, which offers the chance to stream or download trailers for other Fox titles.

Unlike the DVD sold on its own (which includes "Class Clown", deleted scenes, the gag reel, audio commentary, and probably the trailer), the combo pack's secondary disc drops all bonus features (even disc-launching ads) to make room for the digital copy file, offered in iTunes format. The DVD is well under capacity, so some of that content (especially given their light runtimes) could have been fit.

The menu place listings on lined paper over clips that occasionally transition into the cartoony illustrations. Blu-ray supports bookmarks and manages to resume playback as well.

The two colorful discs share an eco-friendly Blu-ray case, which is topped by a standard slipcover. An insert advertises the Wimpy Kid books, while a second one provides directions and your unique code for unlocking the digital copy and to access a complimentary UltraViolet download and stream. We can apparently now add Fox to the list of studios getting behind UltraViolet.

Greg (Zachary Gordon) and Mr. Heffley (Steve Zahn) hope a father-son Wilderness Explorer outing can bond them. Love interest Holly (Peyton List) extends an ice cream invitation to Greg, who respectfully declines in the absence of his bathing suit.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

If you enjoyed the first two Wimpy Kid movies, there's no reason to stop there. Likewise, if you didn't, there's no reason to give this third one a chance. The family hijinks aren't as entertaining this time around, but they still make for a moderately diverting way to occupy a family for 90 minutes.

Fox's combo pack provides a flawless feature presentation, an average but good collection of extras on Blu-ray, and all the versatility you could want. While it's not a must-own by any stretch, kids could do a lot worse.

Buy Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + DC / DVD / Trilogy DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Diary of a Wimpy Kid • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules | New: Heavyweights • Thunderstruck • Finding Nemo
2012 Sequels: Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted • Journey 2: The Mysterious Island • Men in Black 3 • The Dark Knight Rises
The Cast of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Three Stooges • The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Phineas and Ferb: The Daze of Summer • Bridge to Terabithia • The Santa Clause: 3-Movie Collection • Boy Meets World: The Complete Third Season
The Last Day of Summer • Up • Mr. Troop Mom • Ramona and Beezus • Soul Surfer • Mirror Mirror • Brave • Daddy Day Camp

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Reviewed December 23, 2012.



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