(nydailynews.com) Like a kid in a mid-day algebra class, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid; Dog Days” only wakes up for the louder, crasser jokes its pals crack. The third in the film series based on Jeff Kinney’s wry books about middle-school everykid Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), “Dog Days” wants to have fun, but doesn’t know that the best fun happens when you don’t plan it.
Of course, summertime for a kid going into eighth grade is supposed to be nothing but fun. Yet Greg’s old-fashioned dad (Steve Zahn) is planning a video game-free three months for his kids; Greg’s big brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick) is horning in on Greg and Rowley’s (Robert Capron) time at an exclusive pool; and Greg’s hopes to hang with Holly (Peyton List), the cute girl from his class, get sidetracked by her sister’s Sweet 16 party.
The shenanigans the kids get into are, as in the first two films, refreshingly banal, though there is undeniably a bigger “yuck” factor that spoils a lot of scenes. There’s also more than a few unnecessary distractions, like dad’s Civil War reenactors club, that feel like time-fillers.
And unlike last year’s superior “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer” — which put its grade-school heroine through similarly seasonal woes — “Dog Days” squanders several chances to find something magical in the mundane.
The cast, though, remains pleasantly game. Gordon is an appealingly flummoxed could-be-cool-kid stuck like gum to pre-adolescence; Bostick scowls wittily as the wanna-be-rocker Rodrick, and Zahn and Rachael Harris are quirkly confused as Gen-X parents unsure how their boys became uncouth layabouts.
Given short shrift, though are Greg’s goofy pals, including Grayson Russell as oddball Fregley and Karan Brar as melodramatic Chirag. Most unused, though, is Capron, whose Curly Howard-ish face and Oliver Hardy mannerisms again earn him straight A’s in the kid-comic division. In terms of wacky, these guys are far from wimpy.
Magic Moment: A battle for the TV results in a fatherly moment of (cable) disconnection.