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Should you go see 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid'?

'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' fleshes out stick-figure novel

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Author Jeff Kinney, right, is shown with Zachary Gordon, left, and Robert Capron, stars of 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 8.

Akira Suwa/Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT/Newscom

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The movie version of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" manages to put flesh and bone on the stick figures in Jeff Kinney's wildly successful cartoon novel without altering the book's mildly subversive comic tone.

That fidelity plays mostly for the good, though the book's moron-plagued, middle-school protagonist — a sixth-grade boy, who, let's be honest, comes off as kind of self-absorbed, lazy and petty — loses some of his appeal when viewed under the harsh light of the camera.

What's funny on the page is less sympathetic on the screen, meaning the wimpy kid who's going to win the hearts and minds of most moviegoers is not the title character, but his best buddy, the I-gotta-be-me super-nerd Rowley.

Unlike Rowley, Greg (Zachary Gordon) is obsessed with being one of the cool kids as he enters the "glorified holding pen" known as middle school. Greg covets immediate status among his peers, but doesn't want to put in any actual work to win that recognition.

So he tries out various activities, which he sees as "rackets," in an effort to move up the popularity scale at his school. Best friend Rowley (Robert Capron), meanwhile, shows up on the first day of class wearing a serape and sporting a bowl haircut.

Then, after school, Rowley shouts across the courtyard, "Hey, Greg! Wanna play?", breaching middle school etiquette by failing to use the proper, codified language (it's "hang out," not "play") and for displaying undue enthusiasm.

Greg begins to believe that he's either going to have to remake Rowley or lose him as a friend altogether. What Greg doesn't understand is that Rowley, with his passion for self-expression, has an authenticity that will eventually win the kind of acceptance Greg so desperately desires.

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