Posted: 06/06/2011


Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer

by Sawyer J. Lahr

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Long gone are the days when my childhood room was overflowing with LEGOS and Star Wars figurines. But messy bedrooms live on in youth movies like Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer directed by fun-loving director John Schultz, featuring a commendable cast of actors like Heather Graham from American Beauty (1999) a film still too graphic to watch in front of your mother. It was hard enough as a kid to convince your parents to rent a rated-R movie with a “good story.”

Not Bummer Summer
is written like a Disney original movie; that is, on an entirely kid-level. Parents, put yourself in your kids’ shoes to fully enjoy the “Supercalifragilistic-expithrilladellic” ride. Adapted by Megan McDonald, author of the Judy Moody children’s book series was asked to write the screenplay to keep the movie true to its source. The series was released in 2000 and has sold 14 million copies in 23 languages. Cast to play the title role in Eloise in Paris, Jordana Beatty (Judy Moody), an Australian child actor was auditioned by Skype after author McDonald recommended her for the role. Producer Sarah Siegel-Magness (Producer of Precious) couldn’t pass up the chance at the option to adapt McDonald’s material, which her daughter brought home from school as required reading.

The most memorable cast member is the beloved Erkel/Stephan (Jaleel White) from “Family Matters.” White plays Judy’s teacher, Mr. Todd, a Bojangles of Harlem type character. He sings a silly banjo melody about where to find him over the summer break. Whoever finds him, gets a prize. Determined to enjoy summer, Judy charts how many thrill points she and her friends need to rack up for a thrill-tastic summer. 100 points is the goal, but she has to compete with her friends’ extravagant plans for circus camp and volunteering to help a tribe in the Indonesian island of Borneo, South East Asia. Judy’s “used-to-be-second-best-friend-but-now-he’s-my-enemy,” Frank, is stuck following her around to horror movie retrospectives where they dress up like Frankenstein and his bride, but they look more like Laurie Anderson and Mae West.

Family member Aunt Opal (Graham) returns from the Peace Corps in Bali to look after Judy and her brother, Stink, while their parents go to California for some R&R, but they don’t tell the kids that. In a neighborhood where white upper middle class parents take their children on international mission trips and send them to learn how to be carny folk, the Moody household seems normal, except for Judy. Stink is busy searching for Bigfoot to care about if his sister is moping about her bummer summer. Judy is skeptical of Opal at first but soon she becomes the best remedy for a bummer summer. It turns out you don’t need circus tight ropes or deep-sea diving to have a thrilling summer.

Sawyer J. Lahr is Chief Editor of the forthcoming online publication, Go Over the Rainbow. He also writes a monthly film column for Mindful Metropolis, a conscious living magazine in Chicago, IL.

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