Based on Jeff Kinney’s bestselling illustrated book series for children, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
is the fast-tracked sequel to last year's breakout hit Diary of a Wimpy Kid
. The wimpy kid in question is Greg Heffley (Gordon), a slightly runty seventh-grader and the tormented little brother of the title's teenaged Rodrick (Bostick, appealingly goofy). In Kinney's stick-figure drawings, Greg is portrayed as a sad-faced sloucher, but Wimpy Kid
's filmmakers have gone off-book, so to speak, to inflect Greg with a surprising cruel streak. Although the target audience skews slightly older here, it's hard not to compare Rodrick Rules
with last summer's Ramona and Beezus
: Both are about the plight of the middle child, as well as what it's like to be a square peg in a round-hole kind of world. But Ramona and Beezus
did so with sweetness and humor not rooted in disposable pop culture, whereas Rodrick Rules
' most fruitful gag homages the YouTube hit "Fat Kid Singing Lada Gaga" with Greg's chubby, kind-hearted best friend Rowley (Capron) lip-synching to Ke$ha. Them's pretty shallow waters.