December 17, 2017

Movie Review: Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer

judy moody and the not bummer summerToo often movies dumb down the books they are based on, but Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer makes the leap from page to screen beautifully. Based on the Judy Moody book series by Megan McDonald, the film is colorful and fun, with the title character played by Jordanna Beatty a perfect casting pick.


The chief conflict is that Judy desperately wants her summer after third grade to be the most fun yet, but two of her three best friends will be away and can’t be her cohorts. Not only that, Judy and her brother must spend a good part of their vacation with their stranger of an aunt, Opal, whom they are certain will make them “eat fish guts for breakfast” and other awful things.  But when Aunt Opal, played by Heather Graham, makes her debut, she is anything but evil or boring.


So Judy challenges her friends to a Thrill Race instead, earning points for doing exciting things wherever they may be.  It’s hard for Judy to keep up with one friend at circus camp or another friend’s exotic adventures in Borneo, but with the help of her Big Foot-obsessed younger brother, and good friend, Frank, Judy has plenty of adventures of her own.


Movies being what they are these days, I was anticipating vulgar language and lots of potty humor, but surprisingly there wasn’t any of the former and barely any of the latter.  When a toad pees on a friend, making her a member of the “TP” club, even I thought it was funny. Judy’s best friends are made up of boys and a girl, so even my sons were entertained, not thinking it was solely a girl’s movie in the least.


Judy is an imperfect heroine, reminiscent of Ramona Quimby or Anne of Green Gables. She has unkempt red hair and wears mismatched shoes, but it is her imperfections that give her charm.  She is imaginative, fun, and passionate about living. In a time when kids in movies are often scripted to sound smarter than all the adults around them, Judy is portrayed as an authentic nine-year-old.  Her character is sweet, perhaps a little one-dimensional, but it is targeted to kids after all.  There were no adult themes snuck in to appeal to adults, and I liked that.


Often Judy’s thoughts are shown in daydream like sequences when her character flashes to alternate settings, my four kids’ unanimous favorite parts of the movie.  She dog sleds in Antarctica, surfs, and key words pop up on screen taken straight from the books, making great visuals for younger viewers.


Judy and all of the other young characters are good role models. Thriving on imaginative play and unfazed by media or technology, these are American kids I would love to see my own kids befriend.


Judy and her pals are the opposite of moody. They are an absolute delight. It was perfect for kids as young as my 3-year-old and kids up to about 11 should enjoy it too.


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