It’s the last day of third grade and redheaded Judy Moody (Jordana Beatty) is looking forward to the greatest summer ever. She has big plans for herself and her three best friends, a summer of dares and thrills and adventures. But she is crushed to discover that two of her friends have their own plans. One is headed for circus camp and the other to Borneo. Worse than that, her parents have to leave to help her grandparents move, and she will be stuck at home with her pesty, Bigfoot-obsessed brother Stink (Parris Mosteller) and an aunt she does not even know (Heather Graham as the free-spirited Aunt Opal). Instead of the best most not-boring thrilladelic summer ever, it looks to be a bummer summer all the way, death by “starvation, boredom, and Stink-dom.”
Judy has some setbacks and learns some lessons, as the fans of book series by Megan McDonald know. Director John Schultz (“Aliens in the Attic”) provides some visual bounce; it looks like a school notebook covered with glitter and stickers. But the individual episodes play like skits and there is much too much bodily function humor (lessons: don’t eat a lot of junk food and a blue sco-cone before getting on a roller coaster called the Scream Monster — or sit next to someone who did and never make your picnic sandwiches near someone who is storing Bigfoot poop). Most important, Judy comes across as a unredeemed, self-centered brat, and nothing she learns in the course of the film is about more than having fun and winning a pointless competition with your friends. These are what we call first-world problems.
Last year’s Ramona and Beezus was charming and delightful and heartwarming. Like Judy Moody, it is based on a beloved book series about a little girl in the suburbs with a free-spirited but doting aunt, with some silly adventures and lessons learned, but it is a far better film in every category. The best I can say about this one is that children will enjoy the gross-out moments and comic disasters and everyone else will enjoy looking at the very pretty Heather Graham. As a movie, though, it’s a bummer.
Parents should know that this film has some crude schoolyard language and bodily function humor, risky behavior, comic peril, and scares. A brief shot of a silly zombie movie the children watch shows an eye falling out.
Family discussion: Why did Judy think she would have a bummer summer? What was her biggest surprise? What was the funniest part of the movie?
If you like this, try: The books about Judy Moody and movies like “Ramona and Beezus,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” and “How to Eat Fried Worms”