Why 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' Excites This Dad

When I scan upcoming kids movies for my clan, I rarely get excited. Sure, we look forward to Potter and Narnia sequels, but there's no surprise there -- we know what we're in for (and not just because we've read the books). Even trailers for kid movies seem tired: a 3D or special effect here, a slapstick pratfall or prank there, wide-eyed grownups acting unnaturally wide-eyed...

So it was with no small surprise that I came away from the website and trailer for Diary of a Wimpy Kid (releasing March 19) absolutely entranced and excited. I have no association with the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" book series except that my 10-year-old son -- who usually only consumes fantasy literature -- is among its legion of tiny fans.

Kudos for Cartoon Network for creating a promotional website that really embodies the book and movie's spirit, with narration from star Zachary Gordon, great behind-the-scenes video, and a "state-of-the-art cheese surveillance device."

The last straightforward, non-fantasy middle school movie my kids and I saw -- 2001's Max Keeble’s Big Move -- was clearly a grownup's unimaginative perspective on what middle school life is like: Smarter-than-thou kid pulls a fast one on the school and wins the affection of a "hot" girl whose every appearance cues a Britney Spears song. Been there, never done that.

Diary, on the other hand, seems so accurate to the awkward-middle-school-boy experience (and I'm drawing on some personal experience here) that it may compare more favorably to Fast Times at Ridgemeont High, Dazed and Confused, or Superbad -- capturing the true spirit of being in a very certain place at a very certain age.

Example: Body parts -- one's own and others -- are never so strong a topic of humiliation, wonder, and experimentation as when you're in middle school; the Diary trailer shares that point knowingly. Not having recognizable actors also really helps.

I know -- a lot of praise for a film no one's even seen yet, based solely on a trailer and a website. But I'm much more excited about this than I was for the continuing adventures of Harry, Percy, the Baudelaire twins, or the Pevensie family, because this seems like a story I already know, told as if through my own clumsy, nerdy, wimpy nostalgic perspective. That beats a "3D" experience hands down!

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