Movie Review: “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul”

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

For the first time in a REALLY long time, I had one of the kiddos along for the screening, so this review is in a slightly different format–to give the perspective of the target demographic: a 10-year-old.

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” is another chapter in the life of Greg Heffley (Jason Drucker), a much beleaguered twelve-year-old boy who’s alternately tormented by his overly well-meaning parents and his insufferable, annoying older brother, Rodrick (Charlie Wright). This time, the Heffleys are hitting the road to go halfway across the country for the 90th birthday party of Greg’s great-grandmother, Meemaw (Mimi Gould).

The movie opens with the entire family (plus one of Greg’s friends) having a family-friendly dinner at a local restaurant that seems like a cross between a Chuck E. Cheese and a series of unmanaged troughs; this restaurant seems to be all at once the best friend and worst nightmare for the parents of young children. While hunting for his little brother in the overflowing ball pit/swimming pool, Greg manages to get a loose diaper stuck on his hand. The Power of the Internet soon takes over: he’s memed in a heartbeat as “Diaper Hands” and what little rep he has is shredded in the process.

The timing of this trip to Meemaw’s couldn’t be better. Greg needs some time away–and his mother, Susan (Alicia Silverstone), sees this as a perfect time for the family to reconnect offline. Naturally, she doesn’t know initially about how her husband, Frank (Tom Everett Scott), is sneaking in work while on the trip, nor does she know about Greg and Rodrick redirecting the GPS so they can have a shot at making it to a gamer convention that’s not quite en route. Her innocence at virtually every turn is rather incredible and it bespeaks the story’s origins as an elementary-school staple; mom always has your best interests at heart, and she’s way more innocent about how the world works than you think. (Reality is never this uncomplicated, but I digress.)

What follows the family’s departure from the homestead is a series of gaffes, missteps, and mishaps that alternate between funny and cringe-worthy. Even with some laughs, this movie may make parents reconsider taking a lengthy car trip with the kiddos. Speaking of kiddos, I have a ten-year old with thoughts of her own; my interview and her (only very lightly edited) responses can be found below–as well as both of our ratings.

Me: You’ve read “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul”. How do you think this stacks up versus the book: better, worse, about the same…or just different? Remember that not every movie made from a book has to be just like the book; it can be enjoyable on its own, even if it changes a few things here or there.

DD: It is definitely different from the book, with a few changes near the end (I won’t give that away). The story is similar to the movie, but overall the book is a little bit more exciting than the movie. If I had to choose between watching the movie again or reading the book, I would choose reading the book because it’s more interesting than the movie.

Me: Was there anything particularly good or bad about the movie, such as any scenes that made a particular impression on you? Remember not to give away any spoilers about the ending!

DD:

The only bad parts were parts where it was unrealistic:

  1. The Agricultural Fair. I have been to several Agricultural fairs before, and they were total opposites of this. Normally, they are so crowded you can barely get through, it takes you half an hour to get food, and the rides are so full you only get to go on a few. Not this one; it was WAY TOO open. The booths were miles away from each other, and there was barely anyone there! The lines for the rides were so short, you could probably go to every ride in under an hour.
  2. The Motel that they stayed at during the trip was overly gross. It was so UGLY and DISGUSTING. You could see small tiny holes in the bed that were burned. In the bathroom, there were cockroaches all over the floor, and the pool HAD NO WATER IN IT! The only things that were actually IN the pool were mice (or rats) and old wrappers/bags of food.

The good parts were:

  1. The scenery. It was just gorgeous!
  2. The pig. It was SO CUTE! The only thing I didn’t like is that in the book, the pig is in a little bit more than half of it, and in the movie, he/she’s in a small number of scenes.

Me: Did you think the actors did a good job portraying their characters? Any standouts–good or bad?

DD: I think most of the actors did a good job at portraying their character appropriately and to the age they are set to be. The only mishap I had was with Rodrick. He is supposed to be 16-17 and is acting like he is 19-20. Also, he is supposed to be a crazy teen, but seems more like a teen that is loud and obnoxious.

Me: Is “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” appropriate for kids? If so, what age would be the youngest you’d recommend?

DD: I would recommend this movie for kids age 7+. I wouldn’t go any lower, due to a couple of scenes and some language (there are no swears, but even so), I think that it would be a little much for them. I think that kids like me, ages 9+, might like/dislike it based on the books (I have read them all).

Me: On a scale of zero to four stars, where zero is “I NEVER WANT TO SEE THIS AGAIN”, and four is “THIS WAS THE BEST MOVIE EVER AND EVERYONE SHOULD GO SEE IT” (and where half stars are allowed), how would you rate “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul”?

DD: I would rate this three stars out of four. I don’t like it as much as I liked the book (like I explained in the first question). It was entertaining, but even so, there were some parts that didn’t make me go “WOW!” or “COOL!”; they just made me go, “So…what does that have to do with the story?!” This is just my opinion, but people are different, so you might like it better or worse than I did (depending on your taste of movies).

Me: For my part, I’d rate it two stars out of four–but I’m not the target audience; I’m just the money and the ride. Thanks for your help, kiddo!

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” opens in theatres on Friday, May 19, 2017. It is rated PG for some rude humor.

Stage Review: “Annie”

Annie

If you’re looking for a family-friendly musical, you’d be hard-pressed to find one more accessible than “Annie”. An adaptation of the comic strip, “Lil Orphan Annie”, the musical is the story of the 11-year-old girl who finds her way into the home (and the heart) of the billionaire Oliver Warbucks.

The show opens in 1933, during the Great Depression, in the orphanage where Annie and her friends live under the “care” of the sadistic Miss Hannigan. Annie sings her bedmate to sleep with the sweet ballad “Maybe”, as she daydreams about the parents who left her behind with only half a locket and a note to remind her they loved her. Having been abandoned 11 years before, Annie imagines how wonderful her parents and her life could be–if only she weren’t trapped in anonymous squalor. She and her fellow orphans then burst out into one of the most well-known songs from the musical, “It’s the Hard-Knock Life”, describing the roughness of their institutionalized upbringing at the end of Miss Hannigan’s ruler slaps.

As the show continues, Annie does eventually break out–but her freedom is short-lived, and she returns to Miss Hannigan’s control just in time to be spotted by Warbucks’ secretary–who’s on the lookout for an orphan to join the billionaire for the Christmas holidays. And though the taciturn Warbucks didn’t intend on a girl orphan, he warms quickly to the plucky youth and even gets to the point of offering to adopt her. Annie has other plans in mind, though, as she’s still holding out hope that her parents will return for her one day, prompting Warbucks to offer a giant reward to entice her parents to come forward. Miss Hannigan’s crooked brother, Rooster, and his gold-digging girlfriend step forward to pose as Annie’s parents to get at the booty. Of course, hijinx then ensue.

“Annie” is well-known for a host of high-pitched, kid-driven tunes–particularly “It’s the Hard Knock Life” and “Tomorrow”, both of which are amiably performed by the touring cast. (I saw the tour in Boston, at the Boch Center Wang Theatre.) And in general, all of the songs are performed well from a technical standpoint. The kids are predictably adorable, and various members of the cast provide the requisite amount of hamming it up needed to earn laughs.

One area where the show has some room for improvement is in its pacing. The songs feel rushed–in some cases to the point where the spoken dialogue feels like something the cast has to get through as fast as possible so they can speed-sing the rest of the script. The time between songs should contribute to the energy, but at points it feels like the cast is so pressed for time that the ability to demonstrate the emotional depth of their roles is diminished. Erin Fish’s Miss Hannigan is awfully cranky, but she doesn’t come across as particularly committed to the meanness sung about her character, one of several characters who come across as thin and one-dimensional. Gilgamesh Taggett’s Warbucks, in particular, seemed abnormally stiff when delivering most of his dialogue, but he lit up for the songs.

Even so, the songs and music are still as infectious as ever (and I’m sure there were at least a couple of kids in the audience who were inspired to ask later what a “Hooverville” was). The set design was really fantastic–with beautiful detailing and a slick modular design that made the set transitions fairly seamless. And particular moments have stand-out levels of hamminess (be on the lookout for Timothy Allen’s vivacious Harold Ickes) and Bunny Baldwin’s max-adorbs Molly. As one would hope for the show’s lead, Angelina Carballo’s “Annie” was a bundle of energy, and she shone like the top of the Chrysler Building. Or maybe that was just the light from the smiles of the kids walking out clutching their “Annie” dolls and singing the songs.

Three out of four stars

“Annie” is playing at the Boch Center Wang Theatre through May 21, 2017. Tickets are available via the tour’s website and the Boch Center’s website.

Flash giveaway: Win four tickets to see “Annie” at the Boch Center Wang Theatre!

Annie

When I was a young kiddo, I got to see “Annie” on stage in Philadelphia. I know I can’t even tell you who was performing at the time, but the songs got stuck in my head for ages. Really, what’s better (as a kid) than seeing a rags-to-riches story AND THERE’S A DOG, TOO?! So perfect.

And so it happens that when I was approached with the opportunity to give away tickets to this really fun show, which will be running at the Boch Center Wang Theatre from May 9-21, 2017, I had to hop at it. After all, the only thing better than going to the theatre is going to the theatre AND getting to bring some friends and/or family, right?

So here’s the deal: this is a FLASH giveaway. In other words, you need to HOP ON THIS RIGHT NOW. Let’s break down the basics…

What’s up for grabs? A family four-pack of tickets to see “Annie” live at the Boch Center Wang Theatre in the heart of Boston’s Theatre District.

Sweet! So, can I use the tickets for any night? Nope. You have your choice of two different nights. Both shows are at 7:00pm. You can choose EITHER Tuesday, May 9, 2017 OR Wednesday, May 10, 2017. One or the other, not both.

How do I get in on this giveaway? Just use the rafflecopter below and follow the directions. You can enter as many times as it’ll let you, up until 12:00am on Friday, May 5, 2017. Yes, this is a short-duration giveaway, hence the word “Flash” in the title.

When will I find out if I won? The winner will be announced within one hour of the drawing, and I will coordinate with the lovely company that’s providing the tickets to ensure that you get the details you need in a timely fashion.

Any other catches or restrictions? Like, what if I don’t live near Boston? Can I still win? Well, you CAN win, but you’re on your own for getting to the theatre, finding a place to stay, etc. That said, Boston’s a wicked good town and if you want to use this as an excuse to come for a quickie visit, have at it. Just make sure that you don’t end up having a “hard knock life” of your own by showing up without ID to claim your tickets.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

CONTEST RULES AND FINE PRINT

General rules: follow the rules and everybody gets along nicely. You earn entries based on your participation via the Rafflecopter widget, and this giveaway runs from 12:00am ET on Wednesday, May 3, 2017 until 12:00am ET on Friday, May 5, 2017. Only valid entries received during that timeframe will be considered legitimate. Anyone who commits fraud or tries to screw with the system, game the system, or otherwise not play nicely will be removed from consideration. Google for “Wheaton’s 1st Law” if you want to understand where I’m coming from, folks. The winner will be notified by email within 1 hour of selection. This blog is sponsoring this giveaway, which was kindly donated by the folks producing “Annie” for the stage. I did not receive any payment in exchange for hosting this giveaway; I was one of many bloggers offered the opportunity to attend a press night of the show and to host a giveaway. I only get the satisfaction of knowing someone else gets to have a good time at a show.

**PRIZE RESTRICTIONS**
THE WINNER MAY CHOOSE FROM EITHER THE MAY 9, 2017 OR MAY 10, 2017 PRODUCTIONS. BOTH SHOWS BEGIN AT 7:00PM AND WILL BE AT THE BOCH CENTER WANG THEATRE. THE TICKETS WILL NOT BE EXCHANGEABLE, TRANSFERRABLE, SELLABLE, OR ANY OTHER “ABLES”. IF YOU WIN THEM, THESE ARE THE TWO SHOWS FROM WHICH YOU CAN CHOOSE. AT THIS THEATRE. PERIOD. THE PRIZE ONLY CONTAINS TICKETS–YOU ARE OWN YOUR OWN FOR TRANSPORTATION, LODGING, REFRESHMENTS, AND ANY OTHER EXPENSES RELATED TO YOUR EVENING OUT.

**ELIGIBILITY**
YOU MUST BE 18 OR OLDER TO WIN, AND YOU MUST BE ABLE TO PRESENT A VALID ID AT THE TIME OF TICKET PICKUP. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY.

**GENERAL CONDITIONS**
ALL ENTRANTS RELEASE CRUNCHYMETROMOM, SPONSORS, AND THEIR RESPECTIVE FOUNDERS, PARENT COMPANIES, AFFILIATES, SUBSIDIARIES AND THE DIRECTORS, OFFICERS, EMPLOYEES, AND AGENTS OF THE FOREGOING ENTITIES, AND ALL OTHERS ASSOCIATED WITH THE DEVELOPMENT AND EXECUTION OF THIS CONTEST (ALL AFOREMENTIONED PARTIES, THE “RELEASED PARTIES”) FROM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY FROM INJURY, LOSS OR DAMAGE OF ANY KIND. SPONSORS RESERVE THE RIGHT TO CANCEL, MODIFY, OR TERMINATE THIS CONTEST OR ANY OF THE PRIZES AT ANY TIME, INCLUDING AFTER WINNERS ARE CHOSEN. ANY PERSONAL INFORMATION SUPPLIED BY ENTRANTS TO SPONSOR OR ITS AFFILIATES WILL BE SUBJECT TO SPONSOR’S PRIVACY POLICY , EXCEPT WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW, ENTRY AND/OR WINNER’S ACCEPTANCE OF A PRIZE OF ANY KIND CONSTITUTES PERMISSION FOR THE SPONSOR TO USE WINNER’S NAME, ADDRESS (CITY AND STATE), PHOTO, LIKENESS, BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION, STATEMENT AND VOICE FOR ADVERTISING/PUBLICITY PURPOSES WORLDWIDE AND IN ALL FORMS OF MEDIA IN PERPETUITY, WITHOUT FURTHER NOTICE TO OR COMPENSATION IN CONNECTION WITH SAID CONTEST OR THE PRIZE AWARDED. ALL ENTRANTS EXPRESSLY RELEASE THE SPONSOR, AND THEIR AFFILIATES, PARENT, AND THEIR RESPECTIVE AGENTS, EMPLOYEES, LICENSEES, DESIGNEES, AND ASSIGNS FROM AND AGAINST ANY AND ALL CLAIMS WHICH THEY HAVE OR MAY HAVE FOR INVASION OF PRIVACY, DEFAMATION, OR ANY OTHER CAUSE OF ACTION ARISING OUT OF ANY SUCH USE.

**MISCELLANEOUS**
THIS BLOG IS THE OFFICIAL SPONSOR. ENTRANTS AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THE PRIZE RESTRICTIONS, ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS, AND SPONSOR RULES.