Disney’s latest addition to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise might not be an Oscar contender with its cheesy jokes and somewhat predictable plotline. But for fans of the iconic troublemaker Greg Heffley, it’s a fun holiday treat that captures the spirit of beloved University of Maryland alumni Jeff Kinney’s book series.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Christmas: Cabin Fever is an uplifting holiday tale that follows Heffley as he stresses over his Christmas wish: a coveted new gaming system. The plot may feel a bit formulaic and predictable, but Heffley’s misadventures keep the narrative relatively engaging, especially for long-time fans of the franchise. 

The animated film is the third Diary of a Wimpy Kid installment Disney has released since 2021 and follows the popular live-action films released throughout the 2010s.

There were numerous excellent vocal performances showcased, including Wesley Kimmel as a seemingly innocent Heffley trying to avoid trouble and an instantly recognizable Lisa Ann Walter, famous for her role in The Parent Trap, as an intimidating snow plow driver.

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Spencer Howell’s portrayal of Rowley Jefferson is particularly noteworthy. Despite receiving less screen time than Greg, Howell’s performance helped Rowley bring it in memorable scenes —  including a flawlessly executed rendition of “Silent Night” that was equal parts impressive and unexpected. 

The fluid animation turns the 2D drawings from the book series into colorful cartoon characters, adding to the film’s youthful tone. A few of the original black and white images do make a quick appearance, showing the thought processes behind Heffley’s decision-making.

While cheesy at times, the humor was a mix of clever wordplay and middle school awkwardness, adding depth to the seemingly lighthearted narrative. This is not to say that all of the jokes were laughable — some of them just felt a little too childish to be funny. 

A lot of the humor was based on cliche jokes seen often in kids movies, with cringey parents trying too hard to be funny and corny one-liners from Greg’s airhead brother, Rodrick. 

One of the best features of each Diary of a Wimpy Kid film is the coming-of-age themes that develop related to friendship, family and self-discovery. Audiences often get to see Greg learn a lesson as a consequence of his flawed decisions.

The animated Diary of a Wimpy Kid films specifically excel in portraying Heffley as imperfect — something the live-action films failed to highlight — by characterizing Heffley as a more ditsy, arrogant boy who doesn’t know any better. 

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Admittedly as a college student, the film may be less entertaining and appeals primarily to a younger demographic, but it is certainly a great family-friendly holiday film option. 

The live-action adaptations will always hold a special place in my heart, but recognizing the cartoon origins of Kinney’s books by turning them into lively animated films brings out a whimsical quality to the nostalgic characters we know and love. 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Christmas: Cabin Fever  may not be a cinematic masterpiece, but it’s the exact brand of cheesy and entertaining film that delivers nostalgic charm and is perfect for seasonal viewing. The film caters to an array of tastes and provides a memorable holiday experience for longtime fans and newcomers.