Title: Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer
Director: John Schultz (‘Drive Me Crazy,’ ‘Like Mike’)
Starring: Jordana Beatty (‘Superman Returns,’ ‘Legend of the Seeker’), Heather Graham, Parris Mosteller (TV’s ‘Worst Week’)
The start of the summer has always marked the beginning of countless adventures for children across America. The new Relativity Media family comedy movie ‘Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer,’ which was released just in time for the start of many kids’ vacations, aims to show what thrills and excitement they can unfold. However, the movie, which stars Australian newcomer Jordana Beatty in the title role, unfortunately doesn’t live up to its full potential and expectations, which were created by the successful book series it’s based on.
‘Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer’ follows the title character, a Virginia girl who just finished third grade, who’s determined to make this summer the best one yet. She creates a thrill chart so that her and her friends can compete to get the most thrill points; to get points, they must complete the scariest things they can imagine. However, Judy’s plan immediately goes awry when she finds out her best friend Rocky (played by Garrett Ryan) is going to circus camp, and their other best friend, Amy (portrayed by Taylar Hendler), is traveling to Borneo with her mother. Judy becomes even more upset when her parents tell her that they’ll be traveling to California and she’ll be stuck home with her brother Stink (played by Parris Mosteller) and their Aunt Opal (portrayed by Heather Graham), who she doesn’t remember. But Judy is still determined to earn thrill points, despite her other best friend, Frank (played by Preston Bailey), who stayed home with her, seeming less than excited to complete their challenges.
Despite the fact that ‘Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer’ is based on the nine books in the Judy Moody book series, penned by the movie’s co-writer Megan McDonald, the film unfortunately fails to deliver a developed plot-line solid conflicts. McDonald deserves credit for striving to branch out into a new area of writing, but Judy is underdeveloped, especially given the large amount of source material she’s based on. While Judy puts in her best efforts to find exciting things to do, such as ride a roller coaster or learn how to surf, and she becomes annoyed that both Rocky and Amy left her for the summer, Judy doesn’t overcome any major personal or external conflicts.
Even though many of the thrills Judy, Frank, Rocky and Amy embark on throughout the movie are unrelated and fail to uphold a cohesive plot-line, director John Schultz made a good choice in hiring Beatty to play the adventurous main character. Producer Sarah Siegel-Magness has rightfully said that because the books are “both character-driven and extremely visual, we felt it was important to find kids who looked exactly like the book characters.” After she asked McDonald what her image of Judy was, the writer found Beatty on-line, and pushed to have her cast, even without meeting her. McDonald’s faith in Beatty paid off, as she not only looked like the character as illustrated by Peter Reynolds in the books, but she also perfectly carried every scene.
Beatty was convincingly able to portray Judy as being upset and neglected that she was being left behind by her friends and her parents for the summer, something many kids feel when they are left alone. Kids will also be able to relate to Judy when she wanted to lock herself in her room until September because her thrills weren’t going as well as she hoped. But Beatty proved that bad situations can always be turned around; the actress said that her character, like herself, “is a fun-loving person who always has a plan (But) most of the time, her plans don’t go the way she wants them to, but afterward she realizes she’s had a good time anyway.”
Children, particularly those who have read the Judy Moody books, will certainly like and appreciate the humor and characters in ‘Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer’ the most. As McDonald has said, the children are the ones who discovered the book series, as their teachers never heard of them until their students started reading them. McDonald truly cared about catering to her core audience when she wrote the script, which is rare in Hollywood, where many people solely care about reaching as many people as possible to make more money.
Written by: Karen Benardello