Susan Granger’s review of “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer” (Relativity Media)
Talk about niche marketing! Like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,’ “Kit Kittredge” and “Ramona and Beezus,” this frantic comedy is specifically aimed at pre-adolescent girls who have outgrown Disney but are too young for “Twilight”-mania.
On the last day of third grade, spunky Judy Moody (Jordana Beatty) realizes that she’s stuck in her small Virginia town while her best friends (Taylar Hender, Garrett Ryan) have made wonderful plans – taking off on an exotic trip to Borneo and attending circus summer camp, respectively. To add insult to injury, Judy’s parents are leaving home to help her ailing grandfather. So the strong-willed, redheaded tomboy and her annoying little brother, Stink (Parris Mosteller), are destined to spend their summer vacation in the care of their dreaded Aunt Opal (Heather Graham).
To Judy’s surprise, Aunt Opal turns out to be a free-spirited, bohemian guerrilla artist, urging them to create their own adventures, accumulating what are dubiously dubbed “thrill points” on the Thrill Chart. That means searching for Bigfoot in a van with two strangers, scaring her bespectacled pal Frank (Preston Bailey from “Dexter”) when she dresses as a scary Bride of Frankenstein, falling off a tightrope into a river, and enduring a vomit-inducing roller-coaster ride.
Based on Megan McDonald’s popular pre-teen books, the script has been co-written by McDonald and Kathy Waugh, who err on the side of calculated caricature and extreme exaggeration, amplified by John Schultz’s (“Aliens in the Attic,” “Like Mike”) hyperactive, cartoon-like direction that’s best confined to Judy’s animated daydreams. Potty humor and questionable judgments abound, including having Aunt Opal allowing the children to roam the city at night and driving recklessly, careening over sidewalks, with her hapless niece and nephew in the car.
12 year-old Australian Jordana Beatty makes a creditable screen debut, evoking memories of zany, willful young Lindsay Lohan, particularly in her exuberant, superlative exclamation, “Rare!”
On the Granger Movie Gauge, “Judy Moody and the Not Summer Summer” is a tediously slapstick 3, trying to even the most juvenile audiences. Wait for the DVD.