“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul,” the fourth film in the franchise, takes a completely new cast on a bumpy, miserable ride. Rating: 1 star out of 4.

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From 2010 to 2012, a trilogy of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” films was released in rapid succession, starring Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Rachael Harris and Steve Zahn. Adapted from the web-comic-turned-kids-novels by Jeff Kinney, the films featured the kinds of embarrassments and toilet humor that tend to make up most middle-school lore.

Five years later, a fourth film, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul,” is hitting theaters, with a completely new cast making up the Heffley family. Director David Bowers, who helmed the “Rodrick Rules” and “Dog Days” installments of the franchise, returns to wrangle this particular out-of-control-minivan down the freeway.

This story of a family vacation gone wrong could have just been subtitled “Road Trip,” but it turns out “The Long Haul” is an ironically apt descriptor for this film. One hesitates to refer to it as a “comedy,” as the jokes are few and far between.

Movie Review ★  

‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul,’

with Jason Drucker, Charlie Wright, Alicia Silverstone, Tom Everett Scott. Directed by David Bowers, from a screenplay by Bowers and Jeff Kinney, based on the book by Kinney. 90 minutes. Rated PG for some rude humor. Several theaters.

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” is a deft exploration of the horrors of modern life — a world where social media rules our brains and behavior, and constant connectedness means constant work. It’s also a terrifying cautionary tale about distracted driving — adults in the audience may cower every time one of the Heffley parents behind the wheel takes their eyes off the road or uses the phone while shepherding a teen, tween, toddler, spouse, piglet and boat trailer behind the cursed minivan. Belly laughs? More like stomach lurches.

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Fittingly, the central conflict of the film is about technology and screen time. Mom Susan (Alicia Silverstone) confiscates all electronic devices so the family can enjoy real face time on its road trip — but dad Frank (Tom Everett Scott) hasn’t taken the days off work, while titular wimpy kid Greg (Jason Drucker) and metalhead brother Rodrick (Charlie Wright) are scheming to get to a video-game convention.

The film seems to be aware of the terrors it inflicts on its audience in the name of a good time. Though ostensibly presented as 90 minutes of raucous family adventure — a “Vacation” for the PG crowd — “Wimpy Kid” is instead a dirge of unfunny scatological material, techno-anxiety and child endangerment masquerading as familial bonding.

Settle in for the “Long Haul,” because this is one bumpy, miserable ride.