Forget to give him his orange juice and Judge Franck Tabouring turns into a moody animal.
Despite the dominant presence of explosive blockbusters and elaborate prequels/sequels, every summer movie season also boasts its share of light family adventures targeting younger audiences. One of the more anticipated kid flicks hitting theaters in 2011 was John Schultz's Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, which failed to connect with cinemagoers and critics alike, despite the popularity and acclaim of the book series it's based on.
Facts of the Case
Now that summer has arrived and school is finally out, Judy Moody (Jordana Beatty) puts all her energy into planning one heck of a super-duper adventure for herself and her friends. Alas, her high hopes to make this the best summer ever are quickly crushed when her buddies announce they're going away on vacation. With her parents also out of town for a few days, Judy finds herself stuck at home with her annoying brother Stink (Parris Mosteller) and her artsy aunt Opal (Heather Graham, The Hangover), desperate to do anything it takes to have some fun and save this summer from turning into one large bore.
Before I turn my attention to the evidence in this case, I must disclose I've never even heard of the Judy Moody books, which obviously means I'm in no position to analyze the extent to which this big-screen adaptation stays true to its source material. Still, looking at Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, I can't help but see it as a rather irritating mess of a film that wants to be awesome but struggles to keep its promises. The title may suggest otherwise, but this thing really is a bummer.
That said, very young audiences may get a kick out of watching Judy try to have a good time despite all her setbacks. The film is stuffed with over-the-top goofiness and loud, harmless humor that will likely appeal to those not annoyed by constant slapstick and incredibly awkward facial expressions. Truth be told, anyone of a little higher age will not be impressed by Judy's countless mood swings. I understand that having characters act and react overly eccentric is part of the gimmick, but for such a gimmick to work properly, it has to have some kind of purpose. This one doesn't.
Annoying characters aside, the biggest weakness of Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer is its lackluster story. The first hour is a total drag, following Judy as she struggles to find adequate dares while deeply envying her absent friends, who seem to have a blast and brag about it by sending thrilling pictures. At times, I wished the movie would actually focus on them instead of Judy.
The film's final act kicks things up a notch, sending Judy on an action-packed hunt for Bigfoot (don't ask). The lousy level of entertainment we've grown to hate for the past hour suddenly takes a turn for the better, and for about 20 minutes Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer actually transforms into a watchable family adventure. Better late then never, right? Still, this late outburst of action makes me wonder why the filmmakers waited until the end to send Judy and her brother on their fast-paced pursuits.
In her first major role, Jordana Beatty proves she's got what it takes to make it on the big screen. Granted, she's not given too many opportunities to shine, but her charm and energy show off some talent. Despite his character's name, Parris Mosteller turns in an enjoyable performance as Stink. His obsession with catching Bigfoot provides a few opportunities for a quick smile or two. No real need to talk about Heather Graham; she just plays the crazy aunt with a penchant for weird art.
Solid production values help boost the film's visual style. The sets look great and boast tons of strong colors, which make for a pleasing viewing experience, especially in high definition. The Blu-ray carries a strong 1.85:1/1080p transfer that features a sharp, clean picture and lots of vibrance. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track does a fairly decent job as well.
The three disc-set has become an industry standard for major releases. The first disc features the HD version of the film and its bonus material, which includes deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette, some footage shot by the young cast, a music video, facts about Judy, and a trivia game. Disc Two is the standard definition DVD version the movie, and the third is a digital copy. As the packaging indicates, we're also offered a small activity booklet which should keep the kids busy for about 10 minutes.
The script falls apart early on and the lack of fun/adventure provokes too much repetitive action. The movie geta back on its feet in the end, but by then the damage has already been done. Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (Blu-ray) may be watchable if you're four years old, but that's about it. Let's hope next summer will be more exciting.
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