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Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (2011)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/11/2011

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/20/2011

Blame Harry Potter. Children's literature has always had a niche audience, but it has exploded into a boom industry over the last 15 years. As the Harry Potter books grew in popularity, the kid's section of book stores were suddenly overrun with not only new books, but new books series. Most of these focused on the kind of dark fantasy seen in JK Rowling's hit novels, but every genre was represented. There were many books aimed at younger readers, most notably females. And, as with Harry Potter, there has been a race to bring these books to the big screen. We've seen many adaptations of these books over the last few years, and the latest is Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer.

Judy Moody is a precocious girl who lives with her mother (Janet Varney), father (Kristoffer Winters), and her brother, Stink (Parris Mosteller). It's the last day of school, and Judy is looking forward to spending the summer with her three best friends, Frank (Preston Bailey), Rocky (Garrett Ryan), and Amy (Taylar Hender). To ensure that they have a great summer, Judy has devised a chart which measures the amount of "thrill points" that everyone accumulates by doing cool things. However, her plans are shattered when she learns that Rocky is going to circus camp and Amy is going to Borneo. Things get even worse when her parents have to leave town, leaving Judy and Stink in the care of Aunt Opal (Heather Graham), a quirky hippy. Meanwhile, Stink becomes obsessed with trying to catch Bigfoot. Judy must now find a way to keep her summer from being a total bummer!

There have been at least ten Judy Moody books and at least six Stink books published thus far, so clearly the series are very popular with young readers (and apparently the books are required reading in some elementary schools). If Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer's job was to introduce us to the books and convince us of their charm, it failed miserably. I'm not sure why this happens, but filmmakers often fail to see the very fine line between cute and annoying. Judy Moody isn't the first "energetic" child to grace the screen whose "enthusiasm" quickly grating. There's nothing with a kid whose got a little pep, but Judy is unlikable from the opening frame and her "individuality" comes across as a very bad attitude. Other than the fact that she has a shirt with a shark on it (this comes straight from the books), there is nothing appealing about Judy. She's loud and obnoxious, and doesn't appear to be clever or intelligent. She's pouty and she takes the credit for other's ideas. The bottom line for any parent watching the movie is you wouldn't want your own child acting (or dressing) like this, so why would anyone think that a movie about this child would be fun or interesting?

Judy doesn't get much help from those around her, thanks to a combination of writing and casting. Dad looks like a mannequin come to life. Mom is a non-character. Frank looks like Alfalfa's stunt-double. Stink is the typical annoying kid brother character, but the actor who plays him doesn't bring much energy to the role. It's easy to buy Heather Graham as the wacky Aunt Opal, but we learn next to nothing about this character.

This isn't surprising, given the lax nature of the script. Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer isn't based on a specific book, but takes ideas from the source novels to create a new story, and author Megan McDonald was involved in the screenplay. The movie gives us a basic outline for a story and then fills it in with various vignettes. There's no dramatic tension or conflict here, we simply watch Judy go from scene-to-scene doing crazy things. The problem is that none of it is funny, engaging, or moving. Movie like this typically involve some sort of touching scene, but there is no heart here. Director John Schultz (whose resume reads like a who's who of stinkers and bombs) has made an incredibly unemotional movie which dares us to care about it.

There are a lot of good books out there waiting patiently to become movies and it's good to see that Hollywood is still willing to take a chance on something with a literary source. However, given the success of the Judy Moody books (I know I've purchased several for my girls), they deserve a movie better than this.

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer shows that Urkel can still get work on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85 and the Disc contain an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 4.5 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source material. Although, there is a slight sheen of grain on the image which is visible when a one-color background is present. The bright colors of the movie look good and the picture is never overly dark or bright. The nighttime scenes show blacks which look true. The level of detail is good, as textures on objects are very visible, and the depth is what we've come to expect from Blu-rays. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 38 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo and surround sound effects are pretty well done here, as they appear during transitional cuts and in the car chase during the finale. There are also scattered subwoofer effects, mostly resulting from things falling on other things.

The Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer Blu-ray Disc contains a selection of extras. The Disc holds two DELETED SCENES which run about 90 seconds. These are both very incidental. "Judy Moody's Guide to Making a Movie" (24 minutes) is a five-part featurette which looks at the making of the film. The piece contains a nice amount of comments from the cast and crew, as well as on-set footage. It starts with the story and we get comments from Author Megan McDonald. We then get a look at the casting process and how the specific looks were found. Next up is the look of the film and the production design, which attempted to be faithful to the illustrations from the books. We learn how the set was "green". "Flippin Out with the Cast" (3 minutes) shows the kids using video cameras to record one another on the set. "10 Things You Need to Know About Judy Moody" (6 minutes) is an electronic press-kit piece which gives an overview of the movie. We get the MUSIC VIDEO for the song "Wait and See" by Camryn. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long