Movie review: ‘Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer’
Feisty but not snarky, the protagonist of the Judy Moody series of kids’ books has a certain retro, Beverly Cleary-esque spunk. With her unruly hair and tomboy fearlessness, her troublemaking ingenuity and used gum collection, Judy’s a third-grader, not a fashionista tween.
For her first big-screen incarnation, Aussie newcomer Jordana Beatty brings the right wacky willfulness to the part. But apt casting aside, “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer” is a movie devoid of charm.
Creating a new storyline for her bossy heroine, author Megan McDonald and co-screenwriter Kathy Waugh are as intent on a mega-escapade as Judy is determined to have a non-boring summer. The relentless action, bordering on the frenetic, is most definitely not “rare” (Judy’s superlative of choice).
With her parents away and her two best friends off on exotic adventures, Judy and her little brother, Stink (Parris Mosteller, who looks, and sometimes sounds, like the spawn of Boomhauer on “King of the Hill”), are left in the care of Aunt Opal, an artsy-craftsy free spirit played with a surfeit of wide-eyed wonder by Heather Graham.
Scoffing at Stink’s mission to find Bigfoot, Judy embarks on a clunkily connected series of capers/disasters with bespectacled pal Frank (Preston Bailey, of “Dexter”).
Director John Schultz (“Aliens in the Attic”) drums up a silly car chase, some mildly suspenseful moments and gross-out jokes involving food, poop and the ever-popular vomit — apparently obligatory now in all comedies. Cartoony and Crayola-bright, the high jinks might entrance very young moviegoers, but for all the shenanigans, which include not only unsafe driving but politically incorrect candy consumption, there’s maybe one or two (half-hearted) laughs in store for anyone over 5.
Grown-up viewers can at least pass the time looking for familiar faces, Eric Stoltz’s among them, in uncredited cameos.
The movie, to its credit, doesn’t pound home any moral conclusions — probably out of sheer exhaustion. Its implied lesson is that Judy should let go of her control-freak goal of ratcheting up “thrill points” in a dare race of her own devising. She should just have fun.
Too bad, then, that there’s no real joy in all the physical business filling the screen, not even in Judy’s animated daydreams. Bummer.
‘Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer’
MPAA rating: PG for some mild rude humor and language
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Playing: In general release
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