In making family entertainment, some movies pitch a tent high and wide enough to let in the entire family while others set up a tiny tent to include only very small children and a few bored older ones who must accompany their younger siblings. "Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer" definitely pitches the tiny tent.
Since the film is based on a popular children's book series with a reported 13 million copies in print worldwide, the Relativity Media release may enjoy a prosperous theatrical opening on Friday and more extended play as a DVD or download. But woe onto anyone over the age of, say, 10 who wanders into a cinema. This one is not for you.
The film chronicles the adventures of third grader Judy Moody, who is played with considerable spunk by Australian newcomer Jordana Beatty. Judy is determined to have a "mega-cool" summer with the help of younger brother Stink (Parris Mosteller) and her free-spirit Aunt Opal (Heather Graham). No, you didn't read that wrong. Graham is definitely a good sport in this movie where she plays an adult who is, let's say, very much in touch with her inner child.
The quality of Judy's summer involves something called "thrill points," which are vaguely defined and even more vaguely acquired. Or not acquired in the case of the somewhat moody Judy, who doesn't think she's having a great summer at all until it's all over.
There is little story here as such. Mostly the film evolves in a series of slapsticky episodes that feature chases, a tightrope walk, hunts for Big Foot, horror costumes and far too much junk food. There are also gags involving vomit and poo. Although when Aunt Opal drives a car recklessly with her niece and nephew aboard, you do wonder what the joke is meant to be. Occasionally digital cartoons or on-screen graphics briefly take over the narrative.
The film, directed by John Schultz ("Like Mike," "Aliens in the Attic") from a script by the author and Kathy Waugh, wants to put on screen the sense of random play and concentrated games that fill a child's world for a few summers. In this it succeeds, but the film does not welcome others who might still retain memories of those NOT bummer summers.