A friend loves at all times,
and kinsfolk are born to share adversity.
Some friends play at friendship
but a true friend sticks closer than one’s
Proverbs 17:17 & 18:24
As family films go, director Thor Freudenthal’s movie is pretty good fare, the story told through a middle school boy’s diary—No, scratch that, our young hero Greg (Zachary Gordon) thinks a “diary” is too girlish. Even though his mother has bought him a blank book stamped “Diary” on the cover, he insists that he is keeping a “Journal.” Not a “Diary.” In this he enters his thoughts and feelings concerning the events of the day.
Greg’s big brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick) seems to have dedicated his life to tormenting him. The older brother’s attempt to instill dread and fear into Greg concerning the dangers and pitfalls of middle school are succeeding. Greg approaches school not with a feeling of excited anticipation, but of great anxiety. He finds on his first day that there are bullies aplenty, and, after a series of rebuffs, that there seems to be no place for him at the tables in the cafeteria, so that he and a couple of other losers are forced to sit on the floor to eat their lunch.
Greg finds himself forced to hang out with another outsider Rowley (Robert Capron), a chubby boy with a big heart and naïve mind. It is obvious that Greg would prefer other friends, but he is given little choice. Rowley sticks with him through thick and thin, except for a brief time when Greg betrays him. How our pint-sized anti-hero achieves reconciliation through self-sacrifice is perhaps the best part of this dark comedy Based on a “cartoon novel” by Jeff Kinney, the film is often witty and insightful.. One could find plenty of evidence for the fallen nature of humanity here. Important to one sequence is an old piece of Swiss cheese that has become stamped into the playground pavement. Anyone touching it is considered contaminated until they can pass it on to someone else. Seeing in this film how cruel kids on the edge of adolescence can be, it is a wonder that any of us grow into caring human beings.
1. What do you think of Greg when we first meet him? Although his brother Rodrick is obviously a jerk, is Greg really any better?
2. Whom do you remember from your middle school days that were like any of the characters in the film? What school rituals and taboos do you remember? Anything equivalent to the horrid Swiss cheese?
3. Who were the insiders and the outsiders? Why do you think that every society, including schools, have these? How is Angie different from the other kids? Did you know anyone like her who was wise beyond their years? (Such as anyone who even would have heard of, let alone read, Ginsberg’s Howl?)
4. What do you think of Greg’s attempts to become popular? What did you do to become accepted?
5. What do you think of what Greg finally does to atone for his betrayal of Rowley? How is this a sign of hope for his character?
6. Do you detect any trace of religious faith in the characters? How might the church help the Gregs and the Rowley’s navigate through their school experiences?