Diary of a Wimpy Kid is based on the popular children’s book written by Jeff Kinney, which documents the trials of one Greg Heffley as he begins his voyage into middle school, aka the dumbest idea ever invented.

In short: It is this generation’s The Wonder Years.

Heffley (Zachary Gordon) is a small kid with big brown eyes who has yet to hit his growth spurt. As if middle school isn’t already shitty enough, he makes life that much harder for himself by constantly trying to be something he’s not: one of the cool kids. He tries to dress differently, he tries to be a star wrestler—he does anything he can to climb the social ladder, but his efforts always end with disastrous results.

As if not being popular isn’t bad enough, he also has to deal with a loyal but painfully naive best friend, a jackass older brother who’s constantly threatening to kill him, a clueless mother who should know by now that 12-year-old boys don’t like being kissed on the cheek in public, and a father who would really love it if scrawny Heffley became a jock.

With such a stereotypical collection of sidekicks, it’d be very easy to turn this story into another trite and sugarcoated bomb for babies, but Diary is actually pretty great—the casting is perfect, the characters are genuine, and the overall message of “just be yourself” is thoughtful without being too overbearing.

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Also: There’s a scene where Heffley ends up accidentally pissing all over his older brother, and that’s pretty goddamn hilarious.

My one gripe is a minor one—the movie’s soundtrack sucks. A fantastic soundtrack is partially responsible for The Wonder Years’ success, so it’s unfortunate that Diary of a Wimpy Kid, like nearly every other kid flick, is littered with whatever half-assed pop-music hits they could get the rights to. recommended