By: Felix Felicis (Five Beers) –
It was a dark and stormy night, the wind howled outside and the shutters banged against the cabin in the woods with each torrential gust of rain. Jeff Kinney pours himself a whiskey with a trembling hand and sets the decanter down next to the loaded revolver silently taunting him to write. He lets out a soft, choking sob as his fingers fly across the keyboard. He knows what kind of hell is about to be unleashed. He just doesn’t care, whiskey-numb to a world sleeping unsuspecting of the family-oriented dumpster fire of a movie based on the fourth book in his young readers series he’s about to unleash upon them. A bolt of lightning splits the sky in two, just catching the reflection of a single tear running down Jeff’s cheek in the mirror on the wall. He’s done. It’s… ready.
So, cards on the table here, I’ve neither read nor googled anything about the franchise or it’s source material (an admittedly adorable and very popular children’s series written by Jeff Kinney) so I walked into the fourth cinematic adcraptation blind – somehow managing to not miss a beat of this practically narcoleptic plot. We open on a family (the Heffley’s) experiencing suburban hell at a restaurant while out to eat before going on their annual road trip (I can practically feel my childless uterus high-fiving itself by this point). The middle son and hero of the series, Greg (Jason Drucker) manages to (unfortunately) become a viral Diaper Hands video sensation overnight and cooks up a plot with dumber-than-a-dealer’s-choice-Kardashian older brother, Rodrick (Charlie Wright) to hijack the family road trip to hit up a video gaming convention on the way to erase Greg’s Diaper Hands shame. Extremely lame shenanigans and face-meltingly boring events ensue.
I didn’t die in a fire before, during, or after the film so that’s a plus. There was also one… ONE moment where I kind of laughed (though it’s even odds on whether or not the Stockholm Syndrome had kicked in by that point) at the youngest Heffley (played by twins Dylan and Wyatt Walters) being reunited in slow-mo with a pig he won at a farm fair set to traditional Rom/Com-like background music. Did I mention the fire? Definitely didn’t die in a fire.
I kind of wish I’d died in that fire. There are no words in the human language to accurately describe the sheer boredom at being a fully grown adult forced to buy a ticket to this pandering, less-creatively-written-than-love-letters-to-Channing-Tatum-by-Hawk-Ripjaw-and-I, “family-oriented” screenplay/dialogue.
When I die, just bury me in a life-sized sourdough bread bowl and slap a speaker on top of my headstone with the message “stop dumbing-down family-friendly entertainment just because someone is six-years-old, or sixty, doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy the same movie.” and a video screen with Up playing silently on a loop. Ad Infinitum.
The acting itself wasn’t so much wooden as the characters so two-dimensional at times I had trouble distinguishing the actors from their sometimes-sketched-directly-onto-the-screen counterparts. I don’t blame Alicia Silverstone for her wet blanket of a mom that was so aggressively a stereotype of “Mom”dom that, much like Darth Vader, she existed to solely kill any past, present or future buzz anyone could ever have. I see you, Cher from Clueless, I see you in there trapped and struggling to escape only to ultimately fail and then be forced to make a joke about “Face-books and Insta-tweeps” (actual lame parents-don’t-understand-social-media joke subject to inaccuracy due to dangerously lethal levels of ennui whilst in the theater).
Clocking in at barely ninety minutes, somehow Wimpy Kid: Long Haul (so, so aptly named) manages to make that seem like an eternity. Like I’m seventy percent certain there’s a circle in hell that just screens this movie on a loop. The same recycled jokes and gags represent the lowest hanging fruit on the comedy tree and it hits the “slapstick/zany hijinks that’ll warm your heart with family-friendly fuzzies” demographic so obviously and so hard it practically breaks through the space/time continuum to an alternate (and happier) universe where Long Haul was never made while also breaking the last of your will to live in this universe. Just for the love of Cthulhu read the books and stop watching the movies, kids, please, I’m begging you. I don’t have another one of these screenings in me.
Even judging Long Haul by the practically subterranean bar I have for kids movies these days, it still couldn’t manage to overcome all of the disparate elements threatening to tear it apart at any given moment to be anything more than a narcoleptic piece of forgettable fluff. The gaps in narrative logic were so large NASA called and wants to land a moon rover in one, not to mention these logic leviathans totally derailed the part of my brain trying to legitimately figure out how so much could go so wrong so quickly on a road trip unless the Heffley’s had run afoul of some Romany gypsies or managed to offend a Taylor Swift fan (they will come at you and come at you HARD) recently. Not gonna lie, Long Haul hit Home Alone levels of parenting fails. To be absolutely fair, Long Haul wasn’t an objectively terrible movie (subjectively I would peel my face skin off with a rusty spork before viewing again), it just wasn’t a very good, very memorable or very worthwhile one. And that’s almost worse.
There’s no way they can make a fifth movie, right? Right? … RIGHT? Brb. Preemptively launching myself into low orbit around the moon.
Last Call: There’s apparently a mid-credits bonus bit. I wouldn’t know since I bailed harder when the credits started to roll than a white girl at an all-carbs buffet brunch but the interwebs say so.
Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every Diaper Hands .gif, meme, video or mention.
Take a Drink: each time Greg gets away with something. Take Two: Every time he’s caught.
Take a Sip: whenever something goes terribly, horrifically, comically wrong (pace yourself).
Take a Shot: every time the Heffley’s try to avoid a Manny Meltdown.
Shotgun your Beer: for the unlikeliest way to drop in on a ninety-year-olds birthday party that somehow doesn’t end in a trip to the hospital or someone having a heart attack.