Film & TV

"Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer" Advocates Embracing One's Idiosyncratic Spirit

At the risk of being a Debbie Downer, watching Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer is akin to being trapped in the ADHD-addled mind of an adolescent hopped up on too much Ritalin. Adapted from Megan McDonald's kids' books, John Schultz's tale mistakes hyperactivity for humor in recounting the vacation blues of third-grader Judy (Jordana Beatty), an eccentric, messy, redheaded faux-Ramona who, determined to have the best summer ever by competing against friends in daredevil challenges, has her plans complicated by the unexpected departure of her BFFs and the arrival of zany Aunt Opal (Heather Graham). Schultz's style is belligerently cartoonish — kaleidoscopic colors, extreme close-ups, onscreen bubble letters, computer-animation daydreams — and he quickly transforms the action into a grotesquerie of forced whimsy and wackiness in which Judy's attempts to achieve adventurous bliss lead to vomiting and poop. Vainly striving to deliver tween empowerment, the rollicking story advocates embracing one's inner idiosyncratic spirit. Yet the incessant tumult drowns out any real message for the kids — or pleasure for their parents. It's a film so obnoxiously frantic that its most restrained element is a banjo-strumming elementary-school teacher played by none other than '90s tween-mugging icon Jaleel "Urkel" White.

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Nick Schager is a regular film contributor at Voice Media Group and its film partner, the Village Voice. VMG publications include LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.