Diary shines as siblings grow up together

What’s worse than having a sarcastic, tormenting bully of an older brother?

Wimpy Kid Greg (Zachary Gordon

Wimpy Kid Greg (Zachary Gordon

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

3 stars (out of 4)

Rated: G

What’s worse than having a sarcastic, tormenting bully of an older brother? Try being told by your mom that you two need to start bonding — now. As Diary of a Wimpy Kid’s Greg Heffley would say, he’d rather endure The Cheese Touch.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules follows last year’s surprise hit about the sixth-grade humiliations suffered by pint-sized everyboy Greg (Zachary Gordon) and his unsophisticated-yet-loyal best pal, Rowley (Robert Capron).

Based on the second of Jeff Kinney’s graphic novel bestsellers, the sequel takes the action to seventh grade and elevates older bro Rodrick (Toronto’s Devon Bostick) from major annoyance to co-star.

While Bostick has considerable comic talents, he looked too old for the part of a smug high schooler in the last movie. Now it’s getting ridiculous.

Summer holiday is over and Greg is enjoying the satisfaction of moving up a notch in the middle school pecking order.

He’s growing up — he’d like to catch the eye of that new girl Holly Hills (Peyton List), a dead ringer for Barbie and a cool cutie on the roller rink floor.

Meanwhile, Rodrick continues to work on his rock-star chops as the drummer for Lˆded Diper (that’s Loaded Diaper — so spelling isn’t his strong suit; he’s a creative genius and has discovered Keith Richards-like eyeliner).

But the course of Grade 7 life never did run smooth for Greg. Sometimes your older brother lets you sit on chocolate so the whole congregation at church thinks you pooped your pants.

Or he locks you in the basement when you finally get a chance to go to a teenager party. Or he strands you outside your grandfather’s retirement residence in your underpants.

The escalating bro wars lead their parents (Steve Zahn and Rachael Harris, the ultimate second bananas in this kid-flick world) to lay down the law and demand the two make peace and — even worse — be friends.

The smart dialogue and kid’s-eye-view of the torments of school life remain as satisfyingly amusing as the first outing, but this Wimpy Kid is slightly off-kilter. Maybe it’s the fault of the storyline putting so much emphasis on Rodrick, which takes the spotlight away from Greg’s more goofily amusing world.

Nobody in Rodrick’s posse lovingly inserts cheese puffs into his nostrils for laughs, like red-headed nerd prince Fregley (Grayson Russell).

Director Thor Freudenthal has been replaced with David Bowers (Astro Boy, Flushed Away), who moves from the animation department to the human side of filmmaking for the first time.

It’s not a completely cartoon-free zone; Kinney’s minimalist illustrations are used throughout the movie to good effect.

As usual, Greg has to decide whether his loyalties are to his pals — especially poor Rowley who has decided he has promise as a magician — or self-preservation. At the same time he finds himself reluctantly bonding with Rodrick over a shared secret and the discovery of the awesome powers of plastic vomit.

The characters remain a delightful mix of lovable losers, tattletales and schemers and it’s a rare movie where the only thing the teens get into at a raucous party are litres of pop and tossing rolls of toilet paper into the trees on the front lawn.

These kinds of youthful innocent pursuits can’t last — kids finally grow up and so will the cast. Maybe it’s time to say farewell to the Wimpy Kid while he’s still young enough to get away with drawing yucks for being trapped in a ladies change room at a seniors’ centre in his underwear.

Linda Barnard is a syndicated movie critic for The Toronto Star.