Just because a film is made for children does not mean it needs to be childish; just because a film stars Heather Graham does not mean it has to be awful; just because a film attempts to salute the nostalgic summers of our past youth does not mean a person should want to put a gun in their mouth.
But all of the above-mentioned things crossed my mind many times while viewing Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, a picture that by its very title betrays an experience so abysmal, so stupefying, so devoid of any comedic relationship that it makes other movies of this genre, including The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D, Shorts, Nanny McPhee or ANYTHING on the current Disney Channel line-up (with the possible exception of iCarly) seem like Citizen Kane by comparison.
Director John Schultz (Aliens In the Attic, The Honeymooners), should be aware that there are at least a half dozen states for which such an assault on a person’s sensibilities commands a capital charge (incredibly after his big screen retelling of the classic Jackie Gleason/Art Carney sitcom, he was still allowed to walk about on our streets and produce even more noxious waste).
Now before anyone out there accuses me of beating a dead horse by complaining so much about a kid’s picture, bear in mind I am also a parent. Also realize that I take my own children to these kinds of films and Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer was no exception. Three of my kids and two of their friends attended a Saturday night showing and only TWO other people were in the theatre — and that was a young couple — with NO moppets.
The youngsters barely registered a chuckle on the Laugh-O-Meter while I did my best to come up with even the slightest smirk. The reason is painfully obvious — there is not one funny line or situation in the entire effort. Even dropping myself down to the level of what would normally make tykes giggle and trying as hard as I could to find something — ANYTHING — to laugh at was like discovering something politically valuable about Sarah Palin or Barak Obama.
Here, Jordana Beatty plays Judy Moody (the last name is more than appropriate as her character spends most of the picture in a sullen, sad-sack demeanor) trying to convince her friends, Rocky (Garrett Ryan), Amy (Taylar Hender) and Frank (Preston Bailey) to forgo their own summer plans to compete in a lame series of “thrill point” challenges to determine who will have the “coolest summer ever.”
The first two kids are obviously more intelligent than the hapless, Harry Potter-looking Frank, as they already have plans (although Rocky’s attendance at a “circus camp” is as doofy as Judy’s nonsensical intentions). Broken-hearted over this development, the red-haired protagonist is hit with equally bad news when it is announced her Aunt Opal (Graham, who lit up the silver screen with her performances in Bobby and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me) will babysit while her parents jet off to California (hey, with a kid this depressing, I’d take a flight to the West Coast, too).
Promising to spend the rest of the summer in her room (where the writers and director should have been sent to, as well), she also has to deal with a creepy little brother, Stink (Paris Mosteller), who dreams of capturing Bigfoot and needs an international translator to be understood.
And while her two absent buddies are involved in fun activities and collecting “thrill points,” Judy and Frank fail at everything in an effort to have fun, including falling off a tightrope, barfing on a roller-coaster, having a bird poop on their picnic lunch and being thrown out of a horror movie. Aunt Opal is little help, either, being the dumbest blonde in existence and sleeping most of the time (just like the audience).
Picture finally concludes — thankfully — but not without a sequence featuring that one construction worker guy from City Slickers chasing Bigfoot through town in an ice cream truck and Jaleel “Urkel” White appearing as a teacher/ice cream vendor who “entertains” his class by playing the banjo (where’s the toothless cretin in Deliverance when we need him?). There are also completely unnecessary snippets of badly-drawn and poorly-conceived animation (that make the artwork in Hoodwinked! look like Pixar effects) and words written across the screen (for SOME reason) at random intervals. All combined and you have one profoundly ridiculous enterprise and one terrible time at the cineplex.
Parents, if you love your children, then, in the name of all that is holy, please do not take them to see Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer. I only hope my offspring have the kindness to forgive me — one day.