“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” is the third and latest big screen installment of author Jeff Kinney’s wildly popular series of illustrated novels about wise-cracking but hapless middle school student Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon). As Greg confides to his diary (though, as he likes to point out, “It’s NOT a diary, it’s a journal!”), middle school is “the dumbest idea ever invented,” a never-ending ordeal involving – among other appalling things – wedgies, bullies, morons and swirlies. And if you don’t know what a swirly is, then lucky you.
|Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox|
Returning with Zachary Gordon for more mayhem in the community are his brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick) who’s older but not wiser and his best friend Rowley (Robert Capron) whose wholesome outlook in life makes him the coolest kid around along with Fregley (Grayson Russell), Holly (Peyton List), Patty (Laine MacNeil) and Chirag (Karan Brar).
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” is based on Kinney’s third and fourth Wimpy Kid books, The Last Straw and Dog Days. Kinney, who worked closely with the screenwriters, producers and director, says, “We have an obligation to our readers, to make sure we’re protecting their expectations and don’t stray too far from the books.”
Simpson notes, “Some fans will ask, what happened to the third book, The Last Straw? We incorporated elements of it into“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days”, and we brought other elements into“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days”. For the latter, this enabled us to get outside of the school and do a summer-themed movie. This was a great opportunity to expand Greg’s world. People usually look at summer vacation as a golden time, but for Greg it’s just as tough as the school year. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is a really fun book that turns summer on its head, and I think we’ve done that in the movie. We also have some new elements that feel like they’re part of Jeff Kinney’s world.”
Indeed, the filmmakers are quick to praise Zachary’s achievements in bringing Greg Heffley to life on screen. “I can’t imagine anyone else playing this role,” says Simpson. “We started out, three years ago, with a stick figure in Jeff’s book, and had many discussions about what that stick figure would look like if it came to life. We decided that it was really about attitude – a little bit of a hustler, a little bit of salesman, and of course, a wimp. Greg is a good kid, but still trying to get ahead the way that kids do. Zach has really nailed this role and I think it’s hard for kids, when they read the books, to imagine anyone but Zach as Greg.”
Zachary’s Greg still plays off his friends, including Rowley, and troublemaker older brother Rodrick, but “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” also sees Greg spending more time with his dad, Frank. Jacobson notes: “This movie is about Greg and his father, and we get a much fuller sense of who Frank is as a character and more of an opportunity to enjoy Steve Zahn, who’s played the role in all three pictures. And, while we’ve had the amazing comedic weapon that is Steve in our arsenal all along, it’s great to finally let it loose.” Kinney says, “In the books, the parents are kind of background characters; Greg doesn’t even know what his father does for a living. But Steve has done wonders with the Frank character, and adds humor to everything he does.” Rachael Harris adds, “There are some very laugh-out-loud slapsticky things Steve does that nobody can do better.”