Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Blu-ray Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

By Chaz Lipp

Having never seen a Wimpy Kid movie, let alone read any of the books by Jeff Kinney, I had no idea what to expect with Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. I found it to be one of the more pleasant movie-watching surprises I’ve experienced in a while. Dog Days, however cliché it might sound, is 90 minutes of fun for the whole family. The agreeably meandering story focuses on Greg (Zachary Gordon) and his summer adventures between eighth and ninth grade.

Actually, the narrative is kind of beside the point here. Gluing the episodic story together is Greg’s mildly troubled relationship with his dad, Frank (Steve Zahn). If Greg can’t get his act together and develop interests other than video games, his dad just might enroll him in a prep school. The father-son dynamic really rings true, with Frank’s disappointment in his son sure to register with anyone who has been in a similar situation.
Gordon is good at grounding the film, making Greg an everykid who is sympathetic and easy to relate to. Stealing every scene he’s in, however, is Robert Capron as Greg’s best friend Rowley. Much of the film’s best material involves Rowley and his family, who invite Greg along on an excursion to their beach house. They’re also members of an exclusive country club that Greg, as Rowley’s guest, frequents throughout the summer. The girl he’s got his eye on, Holly (Peyton List), is also a member—leading to a few awkward moments as he attempts to attract her attention. And the title character of the previous film, Greg’s older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick), manages to rock up Justin Bieber’s “Baby” with his humorously tastelessly-named band, Löded Diper.

On Blu-ray, Dog Days looks and sounds perfectly fine. The technical presentation meets the standards of what we’ve come to expect from high definition, without actually going above and beyond. Dog Days’ production format was good old fashioned 35mm film, so it’s no surprise the transfer retains a nice film-like appearance. The image is sharp and the colors are as bold and vivid as a set-in-summertime film should be.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix isn’t all that immersive, but it works well on all the basic levels. First and foremost, dialogue dominates and is crystal clear. The pop rock soundtrack, mostly emanating from the front channels, has plenty of presence. This isn’t going to tax your system, but it does fine for what it is.

Director David Bowers contributes a commentary track. There are about ten minutes of deleted scenes and a five-minute gag reel. “Class Clown” is a brief animated short. “Wimpy Empire,” though brief (about ten minutes), provides an interesting look at author Jeff Kinney’s mega-popular franchise. The package also includes a bare bones standard DVD as well as Digital and UltraViolet copies.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is easy to recommend as a perfect way to entertain kids for an hour and a half, whether they’re already fans of the series or completely new to it. Older viewers will likely find themselves at least chuckling quite a few times, too.

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