Dad & Son Time in “DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS” (Opens Aug 15)

School’s out and Greg (Zachary Gordon) is looking forward to enjoying the best summer of all time in “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days.” But his dad Frank (Steve Zahn) thinks otherwise and decides that some father-son bonding should be in order. Greg frantically hatches a plan to pretend he has a job at a ritzy country club – but even that fails to keep Greg away from the season’s dog days, including embarrassing mishaps at a public pool and a camping trip that goes horribly wrong.

In the new film, author Jeff Kinney (returning as executive producer), director David Bowers, producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson, and screenwriters Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky, focus on the father-son relationship of Frank and Greg Heffley, as played by Steve Zahn and Zachary Gordon.

Returning cast members also include Robert Capron as Greg’s best friend, Rowley Jefferson, Devon Bostick as Greg’s brother, Rodrick, Rachael Harris as their mom, Susan, and Peyton List as Holly Hills.

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” follows Greg Heffley’s summer adventures – from the comfy confines of his living room, where all he wants to do is play video games; to the aquatic frenzy of the local municipal pool; to the plush and leisurely luxuries at a lavish country club; and to a wild camping trip outside of the familiar comforts of suburbia.

Zachary’s Greg still plays off his friends, including Rowley, and troublemaker older brother Rodrick, but “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” also sees Greg spending more time with his dad, Frank. Jacobson notes: “This movie is about Greg and his father, and we get a much fuller sense of who Frank is as a character and more of an opportunity to enjoy Steve Zahn, who’s played the role in all three pictures. And, while we’ve had the amazing comedic weapon that is Steve in our arsenal all along, it’s great to finally let it loose.” Kinney says, “In the books, the parents are kind of background characters; Greg doesn’t even know what his father does for a living. But Steve has done wonders with the Frank character, and adds humor to everything he does.” Rachael Harris adds, “There are some very laugh-out-loud slapsticky things Steve does that nobody can do better.”

“When you think about it, Steve is a bit like a dog,” says Devon Bostick rather thoughtfully, while Rachael Harris lets out an amused sigh. “I really am like the mother here,” the actress says. “I mean Steve is constantly joking around with the guys and the boys are constantly fighting or just pranking each other and I’m constantly saying, “You need to focus! Hey, stop it! Settle down!””

“I don’t think any of us expected the films to take off quite the way they have,” says Steve Zahn, who says he’ll be happy to come back to play Greg’s dad for as long as audiences demand more “Wimpy Kid” films. “But then, when you think about it, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised at all. “The books are popular because they’re told from a kid’s perspective and they’re clever and honest, don’t talk down to readers and really capture the angst of being a kid and what’s important to you at that age,” Zahn says.

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” opens August 15 in theaters from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.