Movie Review: Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer


There's a world outside Odyssey. Occasionally I'll review other all-ages entertainment to see how it stacks up to Adventures in Odyssey.


Hollywood likes sequels because they come with a guaranteed audience. It’s assumed all the people who liked the first one will show up for the second one. Hollywood likes adaptations nearly as much as sequels. If a lot of people bought a book, then, it is assumed, all those people will dutifully buy a ticket to the movie version of the book. As in the case of Harry Potter and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, sometimes that assumption pays off. In this case it didn’t. Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer had a budget of $20 million but only made $15 million.

It may be that Judy Moody doesn’t have as much name recognition as Harry Potter or Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I hadn’t heard of the book series before. But there may be another reason why the latter two movies were so successful while Judy Moody bombed at the box office: The title characters are boys. This doesn’t mean boys are better than girls or even that movies with male leads are better than movies with female leads. It’s simply an economic fact that androcentric children’s movies do better at the box office. Whereas an eight-year-old girl usually has no problem watching a movie about a boy, an eight-year-old boy would likely throw a fit about being dragged to a movie with the name Judy in the title. Mom, Dad, son, and daughter may all go see Diary of a Wimpy Kid together, but Judy Moody is probably a Mom/daughter-only trip to the theatre.

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer Still It doesn’t help that it’s not very good. The storytelling is hyperactive, but the story itself is inert. The title character is the least bit likable. She’s selfish, egotistical, takes her family and friends for granted, and I’m not sure she bathes regularly. While this may be an accurate description of a third grader, the character shows no signs of growth. There’s no evidence by the end of the movie that she’s learned to be a better person.

The universe of Judy Moody is hyper-stylized. When we speak about the universe of a fictional work, it means something different than when we use the word universe to describe the stars and planets around us and the atoms that make them up. It’s a term that encompasses the setting and tone of the work as well as the “rules” of that universe such as whether magic is real or Santa Claus exists in that universe. Sometimes, like in Adventures in Odyssey, it is almost indistinguishable from the real world. Other times, like in The Lord of the Rings, it may be an entirely different world.

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer Still Some directors like Tim Burton are known for setting their movies in stylistic universes. The colors of Judy Moody are bright and bubbly. When someone turns their head, it makes a whooshing noise. The fashions and hairstyles are more Blondie than People magazine. For all its style, Judy Moody still looks generic. It doesn’t look too different from a Disney Channel or Nickelodeon sitcom.

The story is episodic. You have (1) Judy and her classmates searching for their teacher over the summer, (2) Judy and her friends trying to earn “thrill points,” (3) Judy’s aunt visiting for the summer, and (4) Judy’s brother’s and later (Judy’s) hunt for bigfoot. Any one of these four would have made a great premise for a movie, but in Judy Moody the disparate plot threads never intertwine into a coherent story. Judy’s aunt is introduced and then seemingly forgotten for large swaths of time. And the plot thread given the most screen time, the thrill points subplot, is the least interesting of the four.


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