Heres the kindest thing we can say about ”Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer: The kids sure do work awfully hard.
They mug and they mope. They run around and jump up and down. They throw themselves headlong into pratfalls and vomit gags with equal elan.
If only the material were worthy of such dedication.
Instead,director John Schultzs adaptation of the popular childrens book series is a shrill,shallow cacophony of individual wacky moments without much narrative momentum. Little kids _ were talking really little kids _ might find it a pleasant diversion,with all that perky noise and incessant motion. For everyone else,itll be death.
Sorry,but its true. The best childrens movies function on multiple levels to keep audience members of various ages entertained,or at least contentedly occupied. ”Judy Moody, which author Megan McDonald co-wrote with Kathy Waugh,doesnt even bother with that. It has a single-mindedness of focus that cant even be described euphemistically as admirable.
Australian newcomer Jordana Beatty gives it her all,though,as the titular character,a young girl in idyllic suburbia whos psyched to share the summer with her closest friends. But then,one by one,they get dragged away to more exotic destinations (one goes to circus camp; the other,Borneo).
This leaves her pretty much all alone to run through the elaborate competition shed devised for the group: a series of crazy activities that earn the participants an arbitrary number of ”thrill points. Sometimes,bonus thrill points are at stake; sometimes,they can be subtracted. This is not an exact science. Whoever has the most at the end of the summer,wins. Maybe its cute on the page. Here,it just seems like a hassle. Even describing it is a hassle.
Then,her parents inform her theyre heading to California for a little while,leaving Judy and her younger brother,Stink (Parris Mosteller) alone with their Aunt Opal (Heather Graham),whom theyve never met. So the summer that Judy hoped would be ”double-rare (her word for good) instead looks like itll be a bummer.
But hey,what do you know? Aunt Opal is one of those wacky aunts,the kind who like to do art projects in the middle of the living room and make elaborate feasts that destroy the kitchen. The kind you only see in movies. Graham,to her credit,doesnt overdo the zaniness and plays the character with a loose,hippie vibe.
So Judy learns how to stop worrying and love the summer. But the character is drawn so thinly,she just comes off as a narcissistic,whiny brat. And thats a problem,since were supposed to like her. Instead,she makes you want to yell,”Come on,kid,it cant be that bad. Go get a paper route or something. Oh,wait _ this takes place in the present day. Never mind.
”Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer, a Relativity Media release,is rated PG for some mild rude humor and language. Running time: 91 minutes. One star out of four.