Review of Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer

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A comedy film based on Megan McDonald's "Judy Moody" book series in which the title character (Jordana Beatty) is a third grader who sets out to have the most thrilling summer of her life.
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Movie Review: Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer

-- Rating: PG
Length: 91 minutes
Release Date: October 21, 2011
Directed by: John Schulz
Genre: Comedy and Family

"Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer" tells the story of Judy Moody, a third-grader who is determined to have an exciting summer. Starring Jordana Beatty, Heather Graham and Parris Mosteller, the movie follows the misadventures of Judy, her little brother and her aunt. Although the movie might be too young for primarily adult audiences, children and families will enjoy the humor.

"Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer" is based on the book by Megan McDonald. The story opens on Judy Moody (played by Jordana Beatty) as she ponders the dire prospects for her summer. Judy's two best friends have left town, and Judy is left at home with her little brother, Stink (played by Parris Mosteller). In comparison with her friends' plans-Rock is going to learn to be a lion tamer at circus camp, and Amy is heading for a vacation in Borneo-Judy's summer looks bleak and boring. To keep her summer from being a complete waste of time, Judy creates a contest for her friends. The first person to rack up 100 "thrill points" during the summer wins the contest.

When Judy's free-spirited Aunt Opal (played by Heather Graham) arrives in town to watch Judy and Stink, the tide changes. Thanks to Opal's wild tendencies, the three embark upon a series of adventures around town. Judy's friend Frank (played by Preston Bailey) comes along for the ride, adding a neurotic energy to the group. Throughout the movie, Judy and her friends email pictures of their exciting summer accomplishments.

"Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer" is aimed directly at girls in elementary school. Everything about the film is targeted to please viewers who are more interested in lovely visual effects than a solid plot line. The colors in "Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer" are bold and primary, which at times is almost garish. Where the book version has a certain something that keeps the characters alive and interesting, the movie fails to capture the sense of whimsy and fun. Instead, the plot feels forced and methodical. For young audiences, however, the defects are not as noticeable. Though this is true, parents may have a hard time sitting through the film.

Jordana Beatty shows remarkable promise as the lead character in "Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer." The young actress is relatively new to the movie scene, but gives an energetic performance. In addition to her work on the television shows "All Saints" and "Legend of the Seeker," she played a small part in the 2006 movie, "Superman Returns." Beatty shines onscreen, displaying a wide emotional range and a surprising array of facial expressions. As Judy, Beatty's acting talents shine through despite her character's whiny nature.

Director John Schulz seems to have targeted his editing choices to a generation of viewers who are accustomed to fast, overwhelming marketing messages. Kids who spend time watching preteen or teenage television shows will not be put off by the jumpy editing and rapid-fire plot changes. Instead, they are likely to be delighted by the bright colors, unconventional adult characters and contemporary slang. "Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer" has all of the elements that are designed to appeal to young, female viewers; unfortunately, the same elements are likely to alienate male audience members and adult viewers. There are a few off-color-but still gentle and inoffensive-jokes to entertain the young boys in the audience, but most of the movie is directed at preteen girls.

"Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer" has an impressive supporting cast of characters, which may serve as the one entertainment source for older audiences. Heather Graham plays the loony Aunt Opal, a fast-talking and freewheeling woman who teaches Judy and Stink important life lessons about creating fun. Her performance fits the tone of the movie but is neither sophisticated nor nuanced. Jaleel White (of "Family Matters" fame) has a cameo role as one of Judy's favorite teachers. As Judy's younger brother, Parris Mosteller strikes just the right balance between annoyance and friend, a combination that will ring true for many viewers with little brothers of their own.

Overall, "Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer" is an entertaining, high-energy romp that is best suited to young girls. Classic preteen imagery, like journals covered in brightly colored stickers, will enthrall elementary-aged audiences. Although adult viewers may want to bring a book or find something else to do during the movie, "Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer" is the ideal movie for a sleepover or birthday party.

Rating: 2 out of 5