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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dear Dumb Diary is a family-friendly movie from the Walden Family Theater initiative based on a popular tween book series by Jim Benton. The story centers on a tween who's struggling to stand out among her (as she believes) more beautiful classmates, which leads her into a service project that eventually changes how she views herself and her peers. Its message is clearly illustrated: Outer beauty can be deceiving, but inner beauty transcends any exterior. The main character makes some poor judgment calls that lead her into trouble, but she makes amends each time and learns good lessons from the experiences. The movie incorporates visual aspects of the books in a fun way, and musical sequences will be a hit with kids. For parents, though, it's the perfect way to start a conversation with your kids about social issues, self-image, and peer relationships.
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What's the story?
In DEAR DUMB DIARY, creative, imaginative Jamie (Emily Alyn Lind) is fed up with being average and withering in the shadows of the world's beautiful people, like her popular classmate Angeline (Sterling Griffith), who always manages to turn the head of Jamie's crush, Hudson (David Mazouz). Frustrated and at her wit's end, Jamie confides in her shrewd best friend, Isabella (Mary-Charles Jones), and in her diary, which holds her secret thoughts about Hudson and her plots against Angeline and the rest of the so-called perfect people. Determined to capture the spotlight –- and Hudson's affections –- for herself, Jamie enters the school's Jump-a-thon fundraiser and sets out to save the school's art program with the prize money and score a hit for ordinary folks like herself. To her surprise, though, her zeal for doing good has an unexpected effect on her outlook and lets her see Angeline in a new light.
Is it any good?
This delightful movie about issues that will resonate with kids provides families with a segue into meaningful conversations about issues like self-esteem, dating, social status, and peer pressure. Dear Dumb Diary is product of Walden Family Theater, a joint endeavor between the Hallmark Channel and sponsors Walmart and Procter & Gamble that's intended to provide families with quality entertainment for viewers of all ages. Not an easy task, to be sure, but they hit the nail on the head. Jamie's struggles with her self-image will sound familiar to a lot of viewers –- kids and parents alike -– and the process by which she learns to cope with her insecurities has value across the board.
What makes this story so appealing –- besides the creative incorporation of the books' illustrations and the breakout music video sequences -– is that Jamie is no saint. She breaks some rules, hangs with a questionably influential BFF who gets her involved in sketchy schemes, and turns her own unhappiness into vengeance against an unwitting classmate. In other words, she's relatable. But each incident forces her to take a good hard look at her actions, and eventually she comes to appreciate who she is, which helps her relate better to others.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the characters' experiences compare to kids' own. Kids: Have you ever felt "invisible," like Jamie does in Dear Dumb Diary? Are you ever jealous of other kids for what they have or who they are? Does that influence how you relate to them?
Kids: What unique qualities are you most proud of in yourself? What opportunities exist for you to showcase your talents? How do your friendships reflect your personal values?
Talk with your kids about issues like peer pressure and status. How is popularity determined? What criteria is typically used? How does the desire for popularity influence how you dress and act? Does this ever conflict with your true inner nature? Why are we drawn to want popularity?
If your kids have read the books, talk about how the movie compares. Were the characters like what you imagined? Did anything disappoint you in the movie version? Do you like to read? What types of books are your favorites?
- On DVD or streaming: November 15, 2013
- Cast: Emily Alyn Lind, Mary-Charles Jones, Sterling Griffith
- Director: Kristin Hanggi
- Studio: ARC Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Communication, Compassion
- Run time: 84 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild rude humor
- Last updated: November 29, 2019
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