out of Five
Running time: 91
Watchable, sweet natured and fast paced children's comedy enlivened by colourful production design and a charming and likeable performance from newcomer Jordana Beatty, though dragged-along adults may find all the shrill hyperactivity a little too wearing.
What's it all about?
Directed by John Schultz, Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer is based on the best-selling novels by Megan McDonald and stars Jordana Beatty as hyperactive, scruffy-haired ginger pre-teen Judy Moody, who is determined to have the best summer of her life. After drawing up a chart involving highly sought-after “thrill points” and an accompanying series of tasks she intends to achieve with her friends, Judy is devastated to discover that her best buddies are going on holiday, leaving her with only wimpy Frank (Preston Bailey) and her Bigfoot-obsessed younger brother Stink (Parris Mosteller) for company.
On top of that, Judy's parents (Kristoffer Ryan Winters and Janey Varney) announce that they're flying to California on family business, leaving dippy bohemian Aunt Opal (Heather Graham) in charge. However, Aunt Opal turns out to be a lot more fun than either Judy or Stink imagined and soon she's helping them rack up the required thrill points.
Newcomer Jordana Beatty is utterly charming as Judy and her relentless energy and adorable facial expressions easily compensate for the more irritating elements such as her incessant tween-speak (“Double-plus rare!”). She also has strong chemistry with Heather Graham, who's perfectly cast as Aunt Opal and there's likeable support from both Bailey and Mosteller, as well as Jaleel White (aka TV's Urkel, if you remember the 90s) as Judy's banjo-playing teacher.
Schultz keeps things moving at a suitably hyperactive pace throughout and throws in several inventive touches, such as nicely animated fantasy sequences, onscreen captions and the like. Similarly, the production design is extremely colourful, which creates a suitably cartoonish atmosphere and has some unexpected benefits – for example, it turns out that gross-out vomit gags aren't nearly as disgusting if said vomit is a delightful shade of blue.
It's fair to say that while Judy Moody's target audience of young children will doubtlessly enjoy the film's riot of colour and hyperactivity, dragged-along adults may find it all a bit much after a while, especially as there aren't really any laughs for grown-ups.
That said, it earns extra points for its general overall sweetness (all the characters, adults and children alike are nice to each other, for example) and Judy herself is impossible to dislike.
Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer is head and shoulders above recent similar children's fare such as Horrid Henry or the Wimpy Kid movies, thanks to inventive, fast-paced direction, a sweet-natured script and a delightful central performance from Jordana Beatty.
Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (PG)