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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

Jason Drucker and Owen Asztalos star in a scene from the movie "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children. (CNS photo/Fox)

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NEW YORK (CNS) -- For better or worse, bathroom-themed gags have long been a staple of kids' movies. But the family road comedy "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul" (Fox) carries this trend to excess.

Together with a noticeable lack of creative drive, writer-director David Bowers' reliance on scatological humor blights his adaptation of the eponymous novel by Jeff Kinney, the fourth installment of a screen franchise that began in 2010.

As his family sets off on a cross-country journey to attend his great-grandmother's 90th birthday celebration -- a trip his mother Susan (Alicia Silverstone) hopes will foster family unity -- mild-mannered middle schooler Greg Heffley (Jason Drucker) worries that being confined together in a car for hours on end will have the opposite effect on his often-quarreling clan.

He also rails against Mom's ban on the use of electronics during the trip, a prohibition his overworked father, Frank (Tom Everett Scott), likewise finds it difficult to obey. Still, Greg has a plan to turn this unwelcome outing to his own advantage.

Recently shamed by an embarrassing video that went viral, Greg plots with his older brother, Rodrick (Charlie Wright), to retrieve his reputation by being taped in the company of online celebrity Mac Digby (Joshua Hoover). Digby is scheduled to appear at Player's Expo, a gaming convention being held not too far off the Heffleys' planned route.

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