"Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules" is about as poor an excuse for a sequel that one could imagine.

And, while anti-bullying programs and efforts are in place in most school districts and the home, you'd never know it from "Wimpy Kid."

Bullying is the premise for this mostly insufferably unfunny comedy.

Without the older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick), a high school student, bullying his younger brother, Greg (Zachary Gordon), a seventh grade middle school student, there would be no movie. That the brothers "make nice" toward the end of movie scores some points.

However, you have to sit through a lackluster movie directed by David Bowers ("Astro Boy," 2009; "Flushed Away," 2006) with washed-out cinematography, and an episodic screenplay by Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah (who co-wrote "Diary of A Wimpy Kid," 2010), based on the popular book by Jeff Kinney.

The mugging and reaction shots passing for acting border on the unbearable. The jokes or visual humor, such as there is, is of the bodily-function genre.

The storyline takes Greg and Rodrick and some of their classmates and parents through one situation after another. It's as if the film-makers said to each other, "Wouldn't it be fun if they then did ... ?"

Well, yes, and no. It all depends on the writing, the execution and the talents of the actors.

The plot really doesn't merit repeating, except to say the goal is for Rodrick to get his rock band in the school talent show. That scene is one of the movie's best and provides some genuine laughs.

Steve Zahn, an often fine actor, is stuck in the muddle of the movie, obviously shot in Mug-O-Rama, as the father of Greg and Rodrick. His wife is played with equal overstatement by Rachel Harris.

Some of the young actors are memorable, including Robert Capron as Greg's friend, Rowley; Peyton List, as Holly, the new girl in class; and Grayson Russell as Fregley.

At the beginning of the movie, stick figures of Greg and Rodrick set against lined notebook pages introduce the main characters. The stick figures reappear throughout the movie.

This is fun, but the film-makers could have better integrated the drawings with the live action in the style of TV's "Blue's Clues." They are somewhat successful in scenes where Greg speaks directly to camera, with a notebook page as background.

Whereas, "Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules" could have been instructive and entertaining about the problem of bullying among teens and pre-teens, instead the movie is, well, simply wimpy.

"Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules," MPAA Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children) for some mild rude humor and mischief; Genre: Comedy; Run time: 1 hr. 36 min.; Distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Credit Readers Anonymous: The kicking and hitting between Greg and Rodrick, this time as stick figures, resumes at the very end of the credits for "Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules."

Box Office, March 25: "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules" proved surprisingly strong, opening at No. 1 with $24.4 million, keeping "Sucker Punch" opening at No. 2, with $19 million, and dropping "Limitless" from No. 1 to No. 3, $15.2 million, $41.2 million, two weeks; 4. "The Lincoln Lawyer," $11 million, $28.9 million, two weeks; 5. "Rango," $9.8 million, $106.3 million, four weeks; 6."Battle: Los Angeles," $7.6 million, $72.5 million, three weeks; 7."Paul," $7.5 million, $24.6 million, two weeks; 8. "Red Riding Hood," $4.3 million, $32.4 million, three weeks; 9. "The Adjustment Bureau," $4.2 million, $54.8 million, four weeks; 10. "Mars Needs Moms," $2.1 million, $19.1 million, three weeks;

Unreel, April 1:

"Source Code," PG-13: Jake Gyllenhaal is sent back through time where he has eight minutes to figure out a crime. Meanwhile, he falls for Michelle Monaghan. The science fiction thriller also stars Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright.

"Insidious," PG-13: Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne star in the thriller about a family who try to prevent evil spirits from trapping their child in a realm called The Further.

"Super," Rated R: Rain Wilson (TV's "The Office") becomes a wannabe superhero, The Crimson Bolt, after his wife leaves him for a stylish drug dealer. The comedy also stars Ellen Page, Kevin Bacon and Liv Tyler.

"Hop," PG: E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand), the Easter Bunny's teen-age son, heads to Hollywood. Other voice talents in the animated comedy include James Marsden, Elizabeth Perkins, Hugh Laurie and Chelsea Handler.

Email Paul Willistein at: pwillistein@tnonline.com [1] and on Facebook.

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