I walked into Diary of a Wimpy Kid worried that it might be too much for my elementary school-age son– what with all the advance talk of school bullies, boogers, and Halloween shenanigans.

I walked out worried that it might be too much for my son– because the wimpy kid, Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon) isn’t wimpy at all. He’s just a schmuck. With very few redeeming qualities.

Based on the first in the popular series of books by Jeff Kinney, Diary tells Heffley’s tale, starting with the first day of middle school. While the books are pretty amusing, punctuated by stick figure drawings and written in a childish, script-like scrawl, the movie isn’t nearly as cute.

Granted, I’m probably thirty years older than the target moviegoer, but that doesn’t really excuse the filmmakers from making a movie that’s at least entertaining to watch. Instead, I just found myself cringing a lot.

It’s not that I can’t appreciate a good kids movie. A Christmas Story is on my list of top five films of all time, and, yes, it features a not-so-nice kid doing not-so-nice things. The difference is, Ralphie’s escapades are more of a lampoon of childhood than anything else. In Diary, though, you get the sense that the filmmakers are taking things a bit too seriously in a (failed) attempt to teach some kind of life lesson.

During the first hour and fifteen minutes of the movie, Greg ridicules his best friend repeatedly, pushes some kindergarteners into a cement pit during a rainstorm, breaks his best friend’s arm, tells more lies than you can count (losing his best friend in the process), destroys the school’s spring musical, and cheats to make a different weight class on the school wrestling team… just to name a few transgressions.

Sure (not really a spoiler alert, but I’ll say ‘spoiler alert’ if you want me to) Greg redeems himself in the end, but it’s literally not until the last five minutes, and by that point you may be so turned off by this kid’s behavior that you find yourself rooting more for him to be permanently grounded than for him to get his best friend back.

I’m sure my son will enjoy the movie (he is in elementary school after all, and boogers are just about the funniest thing in the world to kids his age), and there’s nothing really to worry about as far as tense moments or schoolyard bullying scenes go. I’m just thankful that the conversation I have with him after the movie will be so quick.

“Everything you saw that kid do, son? Never be like that.”

Update: My eight-year-old son, as expected, loved it. He laughed through much of it, and, yes, we had the very brief post-movie conversation above. Parents, you may cringe at most of Greg’s actions throughout the movie, but take comfort in the fact that there’s no way your own child will ever be that bad. And, if nothing else, please teach him/her to never (ever) pick up that moldy piece of cheese on the playground. ‘Cause that’s just nasty.

2/5 stars