Lower your expectations for the third movie in the trilogy of what is sure to be a long series of Wimpy Kid movies, and you'll have an inoffensive time while your kids giggle. As I see it, these movies defy criticism because they're specifically made for younger kids. Pixar movies can withstand critical dissection, but not these films. Greg (Zachary Gordon) is an average kid, getting into average trouble, resulting in a resolution that's only slightly more interesting than what's going on in your own home. But since there's peeing in the pool jokes and smoothies, kids will love it.
For me, the difference between this series and, say, the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies, is that this series is just about kids being kids. Wimpy Kid doesn't need to use seizure-inducing, bright, shiny tricks to distract you from the thin plot, like disco dance floors and rats being hurled off of cruise ships in 3D. But just because they're not overly concerned with pop culture doesn't mean they're not relatable. Greg and his bestie Rowley (Robert Capron) play Dance Dance Revolution games (and are really good at it, by the way, giving me hope that the world's next generation of men won't be so scared of dancing and might evolve past the "white man's overbite" approach). In the last movie, Rowley even sang a Ke$ha song. But mostly, each movie is about what happens when your parents tell you not to do something and you do it, and they get disappointed, and you have the first taste of what will end up being a bitter soufflé of Screw Up that is your life.
This time around, it's summer, and that means that parents of today have to figure out how to convince their kids to get outside and stop playing video games, which is all Greg wants to do. He's sneaky (like kids really are) and knows how to trick his dad (Steve Zahn) into getting off his back, but then he takes it a step too far. Rowley invites him to the country club where his crush Holly (Peyton List) is also a member. He lies and says that he got a job there, just so his dad would be proud of him and not hassle him about going to see her every day. His conscience gets weighed down with relatively minor offenses, as it always does with real kids, until it all comes crashing down around him. Is it compelling for anyone above 13 who's not trying to achieve the same goals? Nope. But did I mention there's a pee joke in there?
Greg and his high jinks remind me of when I was a kid, testing the water to see what I could get away with and what would make my mom cry (that I would never, ever do again). At such a young age, I would have wantonly ordered smoothies at the country club too, if an adult offered to bring me one and didn't say it cost something. In that period of time, you find yourself in the middle of situations that will shape who you become, and it's happening so fast you don't even realize it until much later. And with all of their faults, the kids in this series are good kids--they're our kids (or in my case, my friend's kids that fall asleep on me once in a while). So this is yet another charming movie from these creators that don't use bells or whistles to get the point across. Just reality with a splash of Ke$ha songs. And it's stupid, but fun. Your kids will think so too.