Film Review – Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer
Five minutes into Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (2011), I was already tired of it. I know that’s kind of harsh to say, given that this is a children’s movie, and you have to have certain expectations walking into one. But I have to be honest; this was a tough screening to sit through. Most times I would be enthusiastic about writing a review for any kind of movie, good or bad, but this time around I was dreading it. Even now, it’s hard for me to think of something to write—I would much rather tell you that there’s a thousand kid movies out there that are better than this one. But that wouldn’t be fair to the movie. The least I can do is tell you a little bit about it, and why this isn’t something you should put on your “must watch” list. Think of this review as a little bit of a warning label: oh, you can watch the movie if you want, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
It doesn’t help that the main character is one of the most obnoxiously annoying kid characters I have ever seen in a movie. Right at the opening credits, we hear a voiceover of Judy Moody (Jordana Beatty) preparing an orchestra to play the score of the film. This should clue you in right away: Judy is a control freak. Correction: control super freak. She tells people what to do, orders them around, plans everything they do to make sure it goes the way she wants it to. When she sees someone else having fun or doing their own thing, she forces herself into their personal bubble for her own benefit. Needless to say, the world seems to revolve around her and no one else. We first find Judy and her friends at the end of the school year, and with the summer right in front of them, Judy wants to make sure that they have the most Supermegatotallythrilladelic vacation ever! You notice how the word “Supermegatotallythrilladelic” is kind of annoying to read and say? That pretty much says what this moviegoing experience was like. It was the equivalent of someone saying “Supermegatotallythrilladelic” over and over for an hour and a half, which actually makes it not Supermegatotallythrilladelic at all!
I felt sorry for Judy’s friends for having to put up with her. Who would want to hang out with someone who makes a chart of everything she wants them to do during the summer, and decides the amount of enjoyment they have depends on how many “Thrill Points” they earn from the activities they do? Having fun isn’t something that needs a tally; once you put a score on the stuff you do, it ceases being fun. I actually felt relieved to see that her friends end up confessing that they already have plans for the summer, which include circus training and river rafting in South America. That actually sounds fun to do now, and I’m an adult (or so I’ve been told)! Oh, but that doesn’t deter our young heroine, who then comes up with a scheme involving everyone competing with each other through email, messaging each other with all the cool things they’ve been doing and keeping track of all the Thrill Points they accumulate. Judy jumps into her self-made competition head first, but gets sidetracked when her parents unexpectedly leave her and her brother Stink (Parris Mosteller) at home with their Aunt Opal (Heather Graham), who seems to need just as much supervision herself. Will Judy be able to rack up the Thrill Points to win the competition and have the best summer of all time? Will Stink complete his silly side story of finding Bigfoot? Will Heather Graham wear an outfit that doesn’t make it look like she’s still in Boogie Nights (1997)? My, what thought-provoking questions this movie raises!
The set design looks something like the leftovers of a Tim Burton movie. Everything has a hyper-real, ultra-bright look to it; surfaces seem to be a little too shiny and glossed over. Judy’s parents (Janet Varney, Kristoffer Winter) appear as if they came straight from the factory, as their very faces look like they were made out of plastic. The editing of the movie has a very fast paced, non-realistic style. If you’ve seen Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010), then you would recognize the tone and approach that they were aiming for, and you would also realize how far below that film’s achievements this one ended up. If you are looking to have your kid develop an early onset of Attention Deficit Disorder, then this is the movie for you, as the quick cutting was almost too much to bear. The film sprints head first through its story; not once does it take a moment to slow down and breathe and actually concentrate on the characters, instead it’s just “go, go, go!” without a moment to lose. I barely got through the first scene of the film without being overwhelmed by its corniness and “too-cool-for-school” attitude.
There is one highlight of the film though, and it is Jaleel White. Most of you will remember White as the unforgettable nerd Steven Q. Urkel in Family Matters. Along with that show, I last saw him in the classic, Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus (2010), so when I heard that he was going to be in this movie, I was actually excited to see what he would end up doing. Unfortunately, his name and talent is wasted here. White plays Mr. Todd, Judy’s teacher. Although he isn’t much of a teacher—in fact, he is not much of a character at all. He is only in the film for a short time, playing somewhat of an odd, “Where’s Waldo” type of plot device. Mr. Todd tells the kids that he is going to be somewhere cold for the summer, and it’s their job to find him. Why would the kids want to find their teacher during summer vacation? That’s a good question, too bad the answer is both irrelevant and non-existent. But, it was good to see White getting some kind of work here, even though his main contribution involves fake playing a banjo and singing a completely random song to the classroom.
So it appears that I have written six paragraphs total in this review, which is six more than I actually had the enthusiasm for. Am I being too harsh on this children’s movie? Perhaps, but that’s only because I think kids deserve a much better movie than this. The only lasting impression I had coming out of the theater was that there are a ton of other children’s movies that are more interesting, funnier, and more insightful than this was. I’m not even speaking nostalgically; there are movies made recently that I would watch ten times over watching this a second time—just look at Disney or Pixar for some prime examples. In closing, this movie was so totally not awesome, what a bummer.
Final Grade: D