The Reelist is a column featuring Kristen Page-Kirby’s musings on movies. For Washington Post film critic Jane Horwitz’s review of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul,” click here.
Obviously, I remember the moment when I officially became a mom. The thing is, as they were yanking a baby boy out of me, I was mildly distracted by the nurse on the phone who was calling for two units of blood to be brought up to the operating room that I had been rushed into when things started to go south. Over the nearly nine years since, there have been moments of mom-hood: times of stress, times of joy, times when I opened my mouth and, to my horror, my mother’s voice came out.
I got another wallop watching “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul,” based on one of the books in a series that, along with the “Captain Underpants” books, my son considers his gospel. In the film, the Heffley family, including pre-teen protagonist Greg (Jason Drucker), heads out on a four-day road trip. Enough things go wrong — gross motels, car trouble, a newly acquired baby pig that does what baby pigs do — that one must wonder which automotive gypsy the family ticked off to have such a curse befall them.
I see a lot of my son in Greg, most notably his near-constant desire for digital entertainment and his devotion to YouTubers (like the fictional one played by Joshua Hoover in the film) who upload videos of themselves playing games and somehow make a career out of it. The big punch, though, was seeing so much of myself in mom Susan (Alicia Silverstone).
After getting over my surprise that Silverstone has aged (quite gracefully, I must say), I slowly realized that what Greg views as his mom placing obstacles in the way of his digital happiness, I viewed as … parenting. Susan insists that everyone hand over their devices for the entirety of the trip, a move that struck me as extreme — Mommy needs her Angry Birds Blast time — but understandable at its core.
Later, Susan finds out that Greg has managed to free his phone from her clutches. She says she just wanted them to spend time together, to connect. Greg says it’s not that he doesn’t want to do just that, but that Susan simply isn’t interested in connecting on his terms. Like everyone else, Greg wants to talk about things that interest him — video games and funny videos. Susan thought Greg’s hobbies were what was distancing him from his family; in fact, it was her refusal to see those things as valid interests that created the gulf.
I still don’t understand the appeal of Minecraft, and I think it will be impossible for me to ever join my son in worship at the altar of YouTube star DanTDM. And I don’t think my son will ever be into cross-stitching or “Call the Midwife.” But we can find common ground in Harry Potter and playing Lego Dimensions together. Susan reminded me that connecting with a kid has to be a two-way street — one that might be paved with Pokémon cards.