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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

Family matters matter in the fourth installment of the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid series, based on the hugely popular books by Jeff Kinney. The cast of David Bowers' pedestrian road movie may have changed for this perky franchise reboot, but the reliance on bodily fluids of every viscosity and hue for easy laughs apparently never grows old. For 91 minutes, we are trapped with a dysfunctional clan, which allows their young son to relieve himself in plastic bottles whilst sitting on the back seat of the car rather than pull over and avoid spillages, and the lad's humiliation. A belly full of deep fried butter sticks from a county fair is projectile vomited at the screen and the titular tyke's decision to hide in a motel room shower proves horribly misguided when we are forced to listen to an unsuspecting guest making splashes in the toilet bowl on the other side of the shower curtain. Director Bowers, helming his third picture in a row, makes heavy work of preposterous interludes such as the central character taking a dip in a hot tub full of cheesy snacks and emerging as a bright orange Oompa Loompa. This unfortunate soul is 12-year-old Greg Heffley (Jason Drucker), who receives an unwanted gift in a children's ball pit during a visit to a themed family restaurant with the rest of his clan. Video footage of his ordeal goes viral. Stung by his online infamy as Diaper Hands, Greg resolves to restore his tainted reputation by making a video with his online idol, Mac Digby (Joshua Hoover), who is due to attend a video gaming convention in Indiana. Alas, Greg is already committed to a Heffley family road trip to his grandmother's 90th birthday celebrations. "This is an unplugged road trip: no phones, no iPads, no internet," explains his mother Susan (Alicia Silverstone) as she collects mobile devices from Greg, her husband Frank (Tom Everett Scott), eldest son Rodrick (Charlie Wright) and youngest child Manny (Wyatt and Dylan Walters). "The only connecting we're doing is with each other!" she trills. Following their trusty SatNav, the Heffleys careen from one mishap to the next including a stomach-churning spin on a ride at a county fair and bruising exchanges with fellow traveller Mr Beardo (Chris Coppola) and his family. As the title suggests, Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul is a slog and there are lags between half-hearted giggles. Drucker brings likability to his perpetually unlucky lad, while Silverstone injects her well-intentioned yet naive mom with plentiful pep. There's an aching predictability to the mawkish final destination of Bowers' script, co-written by author Kinney, that feels contrived and emotionally hollow. Like the Heffleys, we're glad when the cross-country odyssey comes to a screeching end.