Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: John Schultz
Stars: Jordana Beatty, Heather Graham, Parris Mosteller, Taylar hender, Garrett Ryan, Preston Bailey, Jaleel White, Kristoffer Winters, Janet Varney, Jackson Odell, Robert Costanzo, Sharon Sachs, Richard Riehle.
This film aimed at tween girls is lumbered with the sort of unfortunate and unappealing title as such other films as Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging and The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants. Based on the popular series of books written by Megan McDonald, Judy Moody And The Not Bummer Summer is the female equivalent of the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid series.
However, the heroine here is no wimpy kid. Rather Judy Moody (played by Australian actress Jordana Beatty in her film debut) is a feisty, selfish, outspoken, optimistic and petulant redheaded 12-year-old girl determined to make the most of her summer holidays. Judy concocts the “most way-cool, double-rare summer plans ever!” She has come up with a chart of daring activities in which her friends will compete for thrill points.
But she is disappointed when two of her best friends head off for other places to spend the summer – Amy (Taylar Hender) heads off to Borneo and Rocky (Garrett Ryan) goes to circus camp. Her younger brother Stinky (Parris Mosteller, from tv’s Worst Week) is obsessed with capturing Big Foot. Judy’s other best friend, the wimpy Frank (Preston Bailey), calls her “a fun sponge,” because her obsession with charts and thrill points sucks the enjoyment out of every thing they do.
The only bright light in Judy’s summer is the arrival of her wacky, flighty aunt Opal (Heather Graham), who is supposed to look after her while her parents fly off to California to visit a sick relative. Opal, who calls herself a guerrilla artist, has just returned from a lengthy sojourn in Bali.
Director John Schultz (Aliens In The Attic, etc) is a dab hand at this sort of family friendly fare. He brings a suitably hyperkinetic energy and frantic pace to the material, although he fails to gain many laughs from the sight gags and pratfalls. Schultz also uses plenty of imagination in the production design, using colourful visuals, psychedelic colours, and the occasional animated daydream sequence to good effect. The only trouble is that there are so many subplots and narrative strands here that the episodic nature of the material wears thin very quickly.
The performances of the young, largely unknown cast are enthusiastic but grating. With her aggressive attitude, Judy is an unappealing and precocious character, although she is supposed to be a role model for other 12-year olds craving independence. Newcomer Beatty has a perky, natural presence, and she brings an undeniable energy and enthusiasm to her role as the central heroine. Her performance here should lead to bigger and better roles.
Graham does what she can with a rather thankless and broadly caricatured role as the zany and free-spirited Opal, who comes across as a poor man’s version of the delightfully dotty Auntie Mame. Fans of 90’s tv series Family Matters will delight in the appearance of Jaleel White, better known as the nerdy Steve Urkel, here playing Mr Todd a cool teacher.
Judy Moody And The Not Bummer Summer is a noisy, busy, fairly innocuous and eminently forgettable film that will appeal mainly to young, easy pleased 12-year-old girls. The “thrilladelic” adventures of Judy Moody would make ideal material for an afternoon television sitcom rather than a feature film.