It’s summertime, and Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) is looking forward to playing video games and spending time with his friends. However, Greg’s dad (Steve Zahn) has other plans: He’s decided that some father-son bonding time is in order. Desperate to prevent his dad from ruining summer vacation, Greg pretends he has a job at a ritzy country club. But Greg’s plan backfires, leaving him in the middle of embarrassing mishaps and a camping trip gone wrong.

If you’ve been reading my reviews this past week, then you would have seen that I have been reviewing every single Diary of a Wimpy Kid film in the series. I already reviewed the most recent installment, The Long Haul, back when it was released in theatres in 2017, so I won’t be doing a re-review of that film. But I figured it would be a fun idea to take a trip down memory lane and rewatch some of the most important movies to my childhood – the original Wimpy Kid trilogy.

As a kid, this was one of my most anticipated movies when it was announced. I first saw the original film back in 2010, and I saw Rodrick Rules in the theatre opening weekend when I was ten years old. So whenever I heard that a third entry was on the way, I was quite excited to see another zany Greg Heffley adventure.

When it was finally released and I saw it, I greatly enjoyed it. While I didn’t think it was as good as Rodrick Rules, I thought that it was a definite improvement on the first film in the series. After rewatching it today, I can confirm that my thoughts on it are essentially the same as they were back in 2012 – this is a really enjoyable children’s film that has lots of heart and a great message. That’s something that every film in the original trilogy has to offer. Dog Days may just be the most mature entry in the series as well, despite the fact that the film ends with Rodrick Heffley doing a rock-and-roll style cover of Justin Bieber’s “Baby”.

What this movie does so well is that it takes characters that we already know and love and give them definite character arcs. In the first film, Greg Heffley was seriously unlikeable. He was a terrible friend to Rowley. He breaks his arm by throwing a football at him while he was riding his bicycle, but he didn’t seem remorseful and actually said it was a blessing to Rowley since a lot of kids were giving him attention all of a sudden.

Robert Capron (left) as Rowley Jefferson and Zachary Gordon (right) as Greg Heffley in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (2012).

If that wasn’t bad enough, Greg then gets Rowley suspended from the safety patrol team after pretending to be Rowley and placing a group of kids in a dirt hole. Greg knew that Rowley had gotten suspended after the school thought it was him that did the act, but instead of stepping up and owning up to his mistakes, he simply lets Rowley get in all the trouble while he gets off scot-free. It’s not until the end of the film where Greg starts to become a better friend. A group of bullies force Rowley to take a bite out of a disgusting piece of cheese laying on the ground.

As the other students gather around, they see Rowley holding up the cheese with a bite out of it and look at him in disgust. Greg takes this as a moment to say that it was him that ate the cheese, making for a happy ending and one that comes with character development.

In Dog Days, we see this even more. Greg makes a ton of mistakes throughout this film. Ones that are so incredibly awkward and embarrassing, that, at times, it was genuinely hard to watch without cringing. He lies to his father, Frank (Steve Zahn), by saying that he got a job at a country club, when in reality, he goes as Rowley’s guest just so he can hang out with his class crush, Holly Hills (Peyton List).

When Frank finds out about this, instead of yelling at Greg and getting heated, he simply tells him “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed”. From that point forward, Greg makes an effort to try to be a better person on a number of levels. He no longer wants to lie as he did and if he makes a mistake, he wants to own up to it. “A man that never made a mistake never made anything”, Frank tells him later on.

Dog Days is definitely the entry that has the most important life lesson in it and is the entry that gives our characters the definitive arcs that they needed. It’s one of the reasons why they should have just ended the series with this film and not continue with The Long Haul, because, despite the fact that the film has an entirely new cast, it actually is a sequel to Dog Days even though it doesn’t feel like it at all.

But, nonetheless, I am extremely glad that we got these three films. I’m forever grateful that I got to grow up with such a hilarious series of children’s films that actually have a big heart. Rewatching these three films this past week has reminded me of one thing – the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days provides a great sense of closure and heart to the original trilogy with an important message and impressive character arcs.

Overall Grade: A-

MPAA Rating: PG for some rude humor

Cast: Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Devon Bostick, Steve Zahn, Rachael Harris, Peyton List, Grayson Russell, Karan Brar, Bryce Hodgson, Laine MacNeil, Melissa Roxburgh

Directed by: David Bowers

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

Release Date: August 3, 2012

Running Time: 94 minutes

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