“Diary Of A Wimpy Kid” & “The Perfect Game”
 
Talk about a niche market.  “Diary Of A Wimpy Kid” (based on the cartoon-sketch book series) is written from the perspective of a boy entering middle school.  All the other kids seem to be bigger.  The girls look like high schoolers, and act like all the boys are losers.  His taunting big brother assures him that he’ll be miserable.  He feels like he’s surrounded by morons and bullies, but he’s determined to do well, even keeping track of how “cool” he is in his imaginary class standings, and how he plans on moving up the list (though he isn’t sure how).
Unfortunately, junior high happens to him.  He gets beat at wrestling in P.E.   class.  By a girl.  His best friend, Rowley (Robert Capron) is an immature slob, but at least he’s loyal, until, that is, Greg (Zachary Gordon) tells a big lie that hurts him, and Rowley has enough self-respect to find another friend elsewhere.  This is supposed to be whimsical and charming, and there are a couple of laughs, but it’s also mean-spirited in the guise of cute.  (Greg also deceives his mother in order to get his big brother in trouble, as a kind of sibling revenge.) These awkward adolescents try, sometimes, to overcome their “herd mentality,” but they can’t, because, well, they’re middle schoolers.  It’s not exactly a nostalgic waltz down memory lane.  More like remembering how you used to trip over the potholes.
“The Perfect Game” is also supposed to cute, but too often comes out cloying.  It’s about that Little League baseball team from Monterrey , Mexico , that won the Little League World Series in 1957.  Yes, the boys are winsome, but they don’t have much else to work with.  Their baseball skills are somewhere between laughable and passable.  They play with sticks and rubber balls on a rocky playground because that’s all they have, and their coach is a burned-out equipment manager who fashions himself as a teacher. 
This, too, could be the diary of a group of wimpy kids, who somehow (because their coach makes them run laps?) develop magical baseball skills and beat all veteran challengers on their way to the big championship game.  And their priest/mascot/good luck charm is Cheech Marin, who blesses all their gloves?  And along the way they receive a scouting report from a local groundskeeper, who just happens to be the Negro League Hall of Famer “Cool Papa” Bell , and this is his way of helping the racial minority?  (And must we have the obligatory “we don’t serve your kind” scene?) 
“The Perfect Game” cues the violins on key, and is so awkward it looks like something made in the 1950’s.  (The production was apparently stopped and started several times for lack of funding, and some of the shots had to be re-done because the boys had grown in the meantime.)  It’s as oily as the “Diary Of A Wimpy Kid” is vinegary, but maybe a little of the spirit of both would have helped either one.  As it is, well, you can have the sugar or you can take the lemons, but just don’t expect lemonade.
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas