We’re very glad Judy Moody’s summer turned out not to be a bummer and wish the same could be said for the reviewers who have to sit through her movie. The film is based on the Judy Moody
book series, and the screenplay was penned by the series’ author, Megan McDonald, along with Kathy Waugh. It’s a near-tween story that seems geared instead toward youngsters who can only dream of the day they’ll become as cool and independent as their tween elders. Certainly, the film’s overall candy-colored production design by Cynthia Kay Charette looks as though it was created for connoisseurs of those giant boxes of Crayolas. Judy (Beatty) is bummed out because her two best friends are leaving town to do fun things on their summer vacation and she’s stuck at home with her little brother Stink (Mosteller), whose only summer plan is to catch Bigfoot. Then Judy’s parents suddenly have to go out of town for the summer and leave their children under the supervision of their Aunt Opal (Graham), whom the children have never met. Judy’s goal of collecting the most “thrill points” of any of her friends seems doomed. Opal, however, turns out to be an artist who travels with a trunk full of art supplies and has just returned stateside from a sojourn in Bali. She calls herself a guerrilla artist, but her definition lacks any political or social context. Guerrilla art in her usage involves repurposing everyday items as art objects, thus metal trash-can lids are decorated and become hats for lions (and let's never wonder about all the possums and other critters now making a mess of the family's uncovered trash). Although I’m generally a fan of movies that choose to star girls (of any age) as their lead subjects, Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer
simply strikes the same whiny chord over and over. Beatty’s exuberance and uncombed mop of red hair are deliciously appealing, but as you study her face further you begin to wonder if her bee-stung lips and perfect eyebrows have been engineered to complement her unruly hair. As Opal, Graham had a shot at becoming one of those great Auntie Mame-like characters, but her Opal is too anemic to be anything but a bubbly, post-porn Rollergirl gone artsy. When Jaleel White (aka Urkel from Family Matters
) is a movie’s most sedate character, you know you’re in for a noisy ride.