Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer

WARNING:  THIS REVIEW CONTAINS A NSFW IMAGE AND I GO ON AN UNUSUALLY OFF-TOPIC TANGENT AT THE END

When I first saw the one sheet for this film hanging in one of the rarely-visited hallways of our local Edwards 22, my first thought was that it was another of the badly slapped together posters that Six Flags puts out every few years.  These photoshopped atrocities are generally meant to draw the small children close with bright colors and nonsensical splatters of text in a vain attempt to push the kids to beg their parents to take them, hoping that the zany wonderland on the poster is, in fact, a real place.  It wasn’t until I asked Matt why he gave up one of his coveted poster cases to this grotesque eyesore that I found out it was actually for a film.  Since that night, we have both been dreading the day we knew we would inevitably have to see Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer.  Well, tonight was that night.  So how did it live up to our hate hype?

All the ingredients for a terrible childrens movie on one handy list!

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, based on the popular book series by Megan McDonald, is the story of the titular Judy Moody (Jordana Beatty), a zany nine year old redhead with no clear definition of who she is or what she wants.  In fact, all she really seems to be sure of is that everything is more fun then what she is doing at this exact moment in time.  Excited for summer to come and yet fully assured that it will be a terrible bore when it does (the first in many paradoxical behavior patterns from the film’s hero), Judy makes her patented “Judy Moody Mega-Rare Not Bummer Summer Dare” list in order to ensure that her and her friends experience as much as possible with their time away from school.  To her dismay however, two of her friends are off to have adventures of their own with one going to circus camp and the other traveling to Borneo, leaving Judy and her best buddy Frank (Preston Bailey who also played Young Mac in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas) to complete the list on their own.  To add insult to injury, Judy’s parents (Kristoffer Ryan Winters from The Hurt Locker and Janet Varney who is starring in the upcoming The Last Airbender: The Legend of Korra) do what any parent with a child this annoying would do by announcing their plan to fly to California, leaving Judy and her little brother Stink (Parris Mosteller) in the care of their scatterbrained Aunt Opal (Heather Graham).  In Judy’s mind, any hope of a fun summer go out the window until she finds out that Opal is just as plagued with an absurd lack of common sense as she is and decides to take up her desperate quest to make her summer worthy of the ADD-influenced vision of fun she has been clinging to so desperately.

How is this not worth an extra 10 points?

What follows is a slap-dash and and often unorganized trip into the chaotic and demented madness of the title character.  Goaded on by constant fun updates from her friends, Judy forced her desire to make her summer worthwhile onto everyone around her.  Her quest for fun overtakes her life to such a degree that she doesn’t recognize that there are fun things all around her.  Instead, she drags her friend Frank on what seems like a never-ending quest to capture a sense of enjoyment that real life can never match.  They go on the local roller coaster but give themselves no points for the achievement because Frank, who just ate more carnival food then the combined talents of Matt and I could put away, throws up on her.  Perhaps its just me, but if they are seeking thrills, adventure and experiences they will always remember, getting hit by syrupy blue vomit while on a roller coaster titled “The Scream Monster” should qualify them for at least twenty points.  As they move from challenge to challenge trying to earn thrill points for her chart, Judy gives up before they have actually begun facing the obstacles that are implied with the word “challenge,” and then blames Frank for their constant failure.  It isn’t until she decides to take up her brother’s quest to find Bigfoot, which she berated him for the entire film, that Judy finally finds enough focus to keep her attention on target for more then five minutes.

Heather Graham needs to return to doing what she does best. Namely, being naked.

As Judy Moody, Jordana Beatty does an acceptable job.  Her energy and enthusiasm are enough that you come out of the film hating the character and not the actress.  I just hope that as she matures from a child actor to a potential teen star, she finds film projects that will offer her the chance to turn her on-screen spirit into something worthwhile.  Parris Mosteller and Preston Bailey also both offer acceptable turns as Stink and Frank respectfully.  As Aunt Opal, Heather Graham does her best to be the kind of aunt every kid wishes for.  The weak link in Graham’s armor is her saucer-eyes which give away the desperation she clearly felt being trapped in the twisted world surrounding her, making Aunt Opal come off as more of an escaped mental patient who doesn’t know how to cook, drive or differentiate between reality and fiction then the functional world-traveling artist she claims to be.  The rest of the cast is rounded out by the likes of Jaleel “Steve Urkel” White and veteran character actor Richard Riehle who do their best, but have little effect against the barrage of ill-defined imagery placed on screen by director John Schultz.

The faces of true heroes. Notice the complete lack of glittery letters pointing to the map and saying "Treasure Map."

Schultz, who directed the Melissa Joan Hart film Drive Me Crazy (which, no doubt, Nick loves), is the true villain of this piece.  Along with writers Kathy Waugh and book author Megan McDonald, he has created a film that feeds into my absolute worst fears about the future of modern children.  When I was a kid, we got movies like The Goonies and The Monster Squad, films about children finding adventure by going out and seeing what life had to offer when they dared to seek it.  It may seem on the surface that Judy Moody is much more imaginative with its bright colors, on screen graphics and silly animated sequences, but I can’t help but feel that all these things do is put children into a tailspin of unattainable expectation in their endeavors.  The heroes of my generation showed us that adventure could be anywhere. As a child, I learned survival skills, studied history and made rudimentary tools in preparation for my family’s summer vacation when I could go out in search of Indiana Jones style adventure, complete with booby traps, bandits and buried treasure.  Sure, it was never to be found, but the exploits I had while searching for it taught me so much about life.  While Judy Moody plans to do things like surf and ride a terrifying roller coaster, her jaded lack of effort expresses the terrifying mantra of a generation that will never experience a childhood built on the hope of one day getting to venture into the great unknown and prove ones worth against the best the world has to offer.  The Goonies taught us to never say die while Judy Moody teaches that you shouldn’t waste your time if its going to take more then one half-assed attempt.

Although anything is possible in the world of Judy Moody, nothing worthwhile ever happens and because of that, I say skip it.  Instead, break out The Goonies on DVD because its cheaper, your kids deserve the best and because you know you want to.

RATING:  1/10

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~ by Andrew Craig on June 13, 2011.

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