Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer
What It Is
Third grader Judy Moody (Jordana Beatty) has great plans for summer. She means to have fun, and lots of it. “I have a plan,” she tells her cat named Mouse, “for the most super-duper not bummer summer ever.” When at last the last class on the last day of school ends, Judy gathers together her three best friends to reveal her big idea: she’s got a chart, and they’ll all compete for Thrill Points, the winner being the first to earn 100.
Alas, Judy’s disappointed to learn that Rocky (Garrett Ryan) is going to circus camp and Amy (Taylar Hender) is headed to Borneo with her mom, with the idea they’re going to save a lost tribe. When her mom (Janet Varney) tells her they can’t afford such expensive fantasy vacations, Judy insists she’s spending all summer in her room rather than with her last best friend, the decidedly geeky and infinitely patient Frank (Preston Bailey). Her pouting only ends when her parents leave her and her brother Stink (Parris Mosteller) in the care of Aunt Opal (Heather Graham), a big-eyed, magical-mystery-touring throwback with a preference for short shorts, fuzzy vests, and art projects involving primary-colored paint and plaster of Paris.
Unable to imagine a summer that’s not of her own design, Judy convinces her friends to participate in the thrill-a-delic competition from their great distances, and so it’s not long before she’s getting emailed pictures of Rocky on a tightrope and Amy with exotic animals. Judy’s jealousy only increases when she and Frank are unable to complete even the simplest thrill-as-task: he throws up on her when they ride the rollercoaster and runs away scared from the scary movie they attend dressed as Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein. Sheesh: she can’t even get through a basic trip to the cemetery with Stink and Opal without a hitch. Not only does their car run out of gas, but they also come perilously close to eating sandwiches accidentally smeared with dog poop.
This last gross-out has to do with Stink’s efforts to find Bigfoot, reportedly attracted to said poop. This subplot runs throughout the movie, as Stink is instructed in his efforts by an older kid named Zeke (Jackson Odell), and aided by a couple who drive a van outfitted with Bigfoot-tracking gizmos and offer regular interviews to the local news crew. Judy rejects Stink’s contention that Bigfoot exists — until she believes, for about a minute, that finding the creature is her last chance to win her precious contest. She doesn’t find Bigfoot.
Why It’s Fun
“Let’s google fun!” suggests Aunt Opal. This may give you an idea of this film’s approach: a lot of possibilities, none sustained or thought out. The more precise word for Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer might be “frantic.” Packed with color and action and kids prone to mug for the camera. All this busy-ness is less appealing than it is tiring, mostly because Judy’s quest for points is not nearly so interesting as she thinks it is.
Opal is more fun. She inspires her young charges to dance (“When all else fails, dance!”), feeds them “tangerine fondue” (syrups and hot dogs and Fruit Loops), and regales them with stories of her exotic journeys. “When I was in Bali,” she says, “I ate cockroaches!”, by way of inviting to join her “I ate something gross” club. She invites the kids to revel in making art: describing herself as a “guerrilla artist,” she says she makes “art out of everything and puts it everywhere.”
The film occasionally turns Judy’s fantasies into animated sequences — á la Lizzie McGuire. This lack of originality isn’t a good start, and the animation is also dull.
Who’s Going To Love It
Fans of Megan McDonald’s book series might find the movie briefly distracting, but its literal-mindedness is more bummer than not. It works too hard to get Judy’s cartoony tangled hair just right, to keep her clothed in silly-sloganed t-shirts (“I ate a shark”) and orange Chucks.
But still, Judy’s not a particularly charming translation from page to screen. As she tries too hard by half to plan her summer, she’s bossy with Frank and mean to Stink, not to mention whiny around Opal. Judy and the rest of us are lucky that Opal is blessed with an exceptionally sweet nature and gobs of optimism — even if she is a little too willing to go along with just about any scheme Judy cooks up. Opal comes up with art projects and adventures in an effort to help with the thrill points.
And who knew? Fans of Steve Urkel (Jaleel White) have another chance to indulge: he plays Judy’s very nice, not very serious teacher. When he challenges the kids to “find me” during the summer while he’s working a second job, you may be charmed by his energy or, more drearily, reminded that too many elementary school teachers can’t get by on one job.
What To Be Aware Of
Poop jokes. Lots of them (and a list of words to go with: “doo-doo,” “crap,” “dung,” “scat”). And a toad pee joke. And oh yes, the rollercoaster projectile vomiting scene: Frank’s been eating cotton candy and blue snowcones, which means the goop spewed on Judy’s face is green.
Judy’s general selfishness and intermittent crabbiness: she’s not a great role model. And she’s not a great winner either.
A little boy inside an inflatable plastic lawn toy is dragged for a block or so by the Moodys’ car (inexperienced driver Opal behind the wheel): in another movie, this kid would be in trouble. This one doesn’t even pretend it’s realistic.
The chase after Bigfoot near the end — they believe he’s in an ice cream truck — is never terribly tense, but it is raucous and unconvincing.
3 out of 10
Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer
Director: John Schultz
Cast: Jordana Beatty, Heather Graham, Parris Mosteller, Janet Varney, Jaleel White, Cameron Boyce, Preston Bailey
Studio: Relativity Media
US Premiere: June 10, 2011