Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer: Film Review

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer - Movie Still: Group Shot - 2011
Relativity Media

Smokewood Entertainment and Relativity Media were hoping to launch a new film franchise based on the popular kids book series. But the $20 million film, distributed by Relativity Media in the U.S., has grossed just $13.4 million to date.

A for-small-children movie that excludes everyone else.

The film, directed by John Schultz, follows the adventures of a third grader, played by Australian newcomer Jordana Beatty, who is determined to have a "mega-cool" summer; Heather Graham co-stars.

In making family entertainment, some movies pitch a tent high and wide enough to let in the entire family while others set up a tiny tent to include only very small children and a few bored older ones who must accompany their younger siblings. Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer definitely pitches the tiny tent.

Since the film is based on a popular children’s book series with a reported 13 million copies in print worldwide, the film from Relativity Media may enjoy a prosperous theatrical opening and more extended play as a DVD or download. But woe onto anyone over the age of, say, 10 who wanders into a cinema. This one is not for you.

The film chronicles the adventures of third grader Judy Moody, who is played with considerable spunk by Australian newcomer Jordana Beatty. Judy is determined to have a “mega-cool” summer with the help of younger brother Stink (Parris Mosteller) and her free-spirit Aunt Opal (Heather Graham). No, you didn’t read that wrong. Graham is definitely a good sport in this movie where she plays an adult who is, let’s say, very much in touch with her inner child.

The quality of Judy’s summer involves something called “thrill points,” which are vaguely defined and even more vaguely acquired. Or not acquired in the case of the somewhat moody Judy, who doesn’t think she’s having a great summer at all until it’s all over.

There is little story here as such. Mostly the film evolves in a series of slapsticky episodes that feature chases, a tightrope walk, hunts for Big Foot, horror costumes and far too much junk food. There are also gags involving vomit and poo. Although when Aunt Opal drives a car recklessly with her niece and nephew aboard, you do wonder what the joke is meant to be. Occasionally digital cartoons or on-screen graphics briefly take over the narrative.

The film, directed by John Schultz (Like Mike,Aliens in the Attic) from a script by the author and Kathy Waugh, wants to put on screen the sense of random play and concentrated games that fill a child’s world for a few summers. In this it succeeds, but the film does not welcome others who might still retain memories of those NOT bummer summers.

Tech credits are solid.

Opens: June 9 (Relativity Media)
Production companies Relativity Media presents a Smokewood Entertainment picture
Cast: Jordana Beatty, Parris Mosteller, Hether Graham, Preston Bailey, Cameron Boyce, Jaleel White
Director: John Schultz
Screenwriters: Kathy Waugh, Megan McDonald
Based on the book series by: Megan McDonald
Producers: Gary Magness, Sarah Siegel-Magness
Executive producers: Andrew Sugerman, Bobbi Sue Luther
Director of photography: Shawn Mauer
Production designer: Cynthia Kay Charette
Music: Richard Gibbs
Costume designer: Mary Jane Ford
Editor: John Pace
Rated PG, 91 minutes