June 4, 2011
MOVIES: "JUDY MOODY AND THE NOT BUMMER SUMMER"
“Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer,” based on the “Judy Moody” books is a light and frolicking way to spend a not bummer summer afternoon in an air-conditioned cinema. Boys as well as girls will enjoy the fun because Judy (Jordana Beatty) is a tomboy, and her little brother, “Stink,” (Parris Mosteller) has a leading role. (“Stink” is a scene-stealing, spike-haired, tow-headed, wholeheartedly enthusiastic dude with a “w” speech impediment. “Do you want me to read this wetter to you?”)
Tween Judy is determined not to have a boring bummer summer as usual, but two of her best friends are going away for the summer where they are guaranteed to have not bummer summers: one goes to circus camp and the other to Borneo. Judy decides to have a contest with them and her friend, Frank (Preston Bailey), who remains at home: who can get the most “thrill” points by doing daring and thrilling things. But she’s not succeeding, mainly because Frank, a bit of a scaredy cat, keeps messing things up. Things come to a head when Judy gets angry with Frank and Frank tells her that her “points” are taking the fun out of everything.
Some added excitement involves a favorite teacher at school, Mr. Todd (Jaleel White, the former Steve Urkel from “Family Matters”), who promises a prize to whomever of his students can find him during the summer, his only clue being that he’s some place “cold.” Aunt Opal (Heather Graham)--the kooky, artsy, never-grew-up Aunt that every kid should have--comes to mind Judy and Stink. And Stink has his own project going as he follows reports of Big Foot sightings in the neighborhood.
The “mood” of “Judy” is manic and hyperactive, but at a realistic pitch when it comes to this age group! (Think Ramona and Pippi.) And everything is either a secret, a mystery, a hunt, or a club. I remember starting an “Atomic Witchiepoo” club at this age. I had an unhealthy obsession with witches because of all the “witch books” I read: “Wednesday Witch,” “The Witch of Blackbird Pond,” Jennifer, Hecate and Macbeth,” etc.
Judy’s imagination runs wild at all moments and her fantasies become animated vignettes. Every scene is bursting with color, motion, nice little touches (like a burping Venus flytrap), and graphic design special effects. The script feels like someone my age writing in lots of pop culture references and expressions from my own growing up years, so it isn’t quite up-to-the-moment, but somehow it works.
The adults are kind, fun, loving and parental, but parents everywhere will cringe at the constant messes and destruction of property—indoors and outdoors.
What will kids learn? I absolutely loved the way Judy was so honest about not gaining her thrill points. She never tried to cheat or embellish, and always gave her more successful friends their due. Kids can also learn that fun can be in little things: a mood ring, arts and crafts (OK, Aunt Opal was a little excessive in this department), a toad peeing (oh, and there’s lots of poop jokes, too). Judy is one ambitious and enterprising gal, but she also has to learn never to give up, and that games can be taken too far. Friendship comes first.
My favorite line: “It can take years to catch a monster.”