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Tip of the Week

'Dog Days' Respectably Captures Middle School Angst

Julie Samrick
Kid Focused

It's summertime for teen Greg Heffley, and he's turned more rebel than wimpy kid in the latest, third movie installment of the popular Jeff Kinney book series. Greg aims to make the long days of summer exciting, but this lands him time and again in the doghouse at home.
Greg is a mini Ferris Bueller - cute in an ordinary, every-boy kind of way. And just like Ferris went out of his way to innocently trick authority and do innocuous things like join a parade float, the kind of excitement Greg seeks is pretty mundane too, while still embodying the middle school angst many tweens and teens feel today.
Although the second wimpy kid movie, Rodrick Rules, centered on Greg's relationship with his older brother, this time the message centers on Greg's relationship with his dad as the two try to find common interests.
One of the reasons why the books are so successful (and this film captures the same spirit) is that they are a time capsule of the middle school years.  Most issues normal kids at that age wrestle with are shown, but not in a gratuitous way. There's peer pressure, mean kids, parents who don't understand, a need for adventure, first crushes, and plenty of awkward moments.
Multiple times my preteen son, a lover of the book series, and I looked at each other knowingly.  I think he liked that I saw what kids around his age experience, but he didn't have to say so himself.  And besides lots of silliness, Greg learns some life lessons - such as how a parent's disappointment can be worse than getting yelled at.  It also shows that parents and kids just need to spend time together to remember they're more alike than different.
Afterwards, my son chattered excitedly about some differences between the book and the movie.  He even told me to read the book so I could see for myself.  My first thought was to say, "No, I think I get it," but instead said, "That's a good idea."
The adults are clueless for most of the film, which you know I don't like, but they are shown with more depth by the end. Unlike most movie franchises, I've liked each of the wimpy kid movies better than the last. In the first film, the emphasis on Greg being a wimp is depressing, but as he's grown and become more confident, I find him a great role model for kids.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days isn't Academy Award caliber, but the PG-rated film is recommended for any readers of the series (which is geared toward 8 to 14-year-olds) and their younger siblings too.

Julie Samrick is a stay-at-home mom of 4 young kids and the founder of Kid Focused, a site devoted to children and family issues.  Subscribe to the free Kid Focused newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox and connect with us on Facebook too.  Permission granted for use on

Tags: Education, Family/Relationships - Parent/Child, Middle school, Movie Review, Parenting, Stay-at-Home Mom, Teens, Tweens
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