It’s incredibly tempting to write a hyperbolic, profanity-laden review of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul. After all, it isn’t a movie I wanted to see, it isn’t a movie I was going to see, and it isn’t a movie that anyone should see. It’s pure, unadulterated garbage distilled into a 90-minute cinematic torture show. It’s enraging, it’s demoralizing, and it’s almost undoubtedly the worst theatrical release of 2017. Yes, worse than whatever you’re thinking. It’s the type of movie that makes one want to quit movies. But I’m glad I saw it.
I’ve long held the belief that you can’t appreciate greatness without also bearing witness to rubbish. If every movie you watch is good or even great, then it becomes difficult to distinguish or treasure the truly fantastic films you watch. The trash helps you set a scale on which to place subsequent and previous films when it comes to their evaluations. So, adding another entry to the very bottom of that scale, even if it was a painful, soul-sucking experience, is ultimately for the best. Hey, who ever said I wasn’t an optimist?
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul is a road trip movie. I haven’t seen the previous three chapters, but I’ve heard they’re not as bad. The cast has been rebooted anyway, and the characters are so paper-thin that seeing the earlier entries doesn’t seem to matter. Our characters are all members of the Heffley family, which consists of a mother (Alicia Silverstone), a father (Tom Everett Scott), a teenager (Charlie Wright), a middle child (Jason Drucker), and a baby (Wyatt and Dylan Walters). Names are inconsequential. The mother is controlling, the father works too hard, the teenager is a jerk, the middle child is a jerk, and even the baby is a jerk.
They are going on a road trip for the kids’ grandmother’s 90th birthday. The middle child only wants to go because it’s somewhat close to a gaming convention at which a famous YouTuber is making an appearance. The mother takes away everyone’s phones. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong. You’ve seen this movie before, but probably not in a version this poor.
It’s enraging, it’s demoralizing, and it’s almost undoubtedly the worst theatrical release of 2017.
Fundamentally, we’re supposed to be rooting for either (1) this kid to get to go to the gaming convention or (2) him to realize that the gaming convention isn’t important and he should spend time with and cherish his family. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul falls apart here. The kid is a self-centered jerk, so the former isn’t worth cheering for. And the rest of his family consists of jerks, too, so why would we hope they all get together and sing “Kumbaya”?
So if that fails, at least there’s comedy upon which the film can rely, right? Of course not. It’s not funny. It has a surprising reliance on gross-out gags, which aren’t terribly befitting of a movie for children, and they’re not set up in a way to be funny for anyone over the age of two. And toddlers will laugh at anything, because they don’t have the intellectual capacity to understand most of what’s going on and will just laugh randomly. I’m convinced that’s how the test screenings for Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul went. Toddlers were shown the movie and since they laughed for part of the movie the studio deemed it a success.
We also have to watch terrible acting, particularly from any actor under the age of 35. The kids in this movie, particularly Jason Drucker and Charlie Wright, are horrendous—to the point that you can tell just based on the trailer that their performances could render the movie borderline unwatchable. The adults aren’t much better, and some of them are actually just as bad. The “villain” of the film is played by Chris Coppola and … it’s just a horrible performance.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul is an abysmal excuse for a movie—the type of project where anyone involved should be ashamed of their participation. It doesn’t work on a single level. It’s not funny, it can’t get us to do anything but hate all of its characters, it features terrible performances, and it looks cheap. It’s a failure from start to finish, and is probably going to wind up being the worst movie of 2017.
Conclusion: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul is a dreadful experience.
Recommendation: If you hate yourself, watch Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul. If you hate someone else, get them to watch Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul.