JUDY MOODY AND THE NOT BUMMER SUMMER: The Film Babble Blog Review

JUDY MOODY AND THE NOT BUMMER SUMMER (Dir. John Schultz, 2011)

In 1996 former Raleigh resident, and former member of local favorites the Connells, John Schultz made one of my favorite independent films: BANDWAGON, about a fictional struggling indie band.

Since then Schultz has been mainly making kids movies like LIKE MIKE, WHEN ZACHARY TAYLOR CAME TO TOWN, and ALIENS IN THE ATTIC.

That family film streak continues with JUDY MOODY AND THE NOT BUMMER SUMMER, based on Megan McDonald’s “Judy Moody” children’s book series, which I had never heard of befoer since I’m 41 and don’t have any kids.

Okay, so I’m not in the target audience for this movie.

I’ll still proceed – Jordana Beatty plays the precocious title character, who’s cute but often hyper-irritating as she bounces from frame to frame , spouting out self consciously hipisms like “rare” in place of “cool,” and plotting every activity with charts in a control freak manner that even annoys her close friends.

After their teacher Urkel (I mean Jaleel White) dismisses class for the summer, 2 of Beatty’s friends take off – Taylor Hender to clown camp; Garrett Ryan to circus camp.

Beatty is stuck with the nerdy Preston Bailey who gets in the way of racking up those “thrill-a-delic” points our heroine imposed on her chums.

Then there’s Parris Mosteller as Beatty’s brother Stink, who wishes to spend the summer tracking down Bigfoot, because reports indicate he’s in the area.

Their parents (Kristoffer Winters and Janet Varney) leave for a emergency trip (I can’t remember why or where), and Aunt Opal (Heather Graham) arrives to take care of the kids.

Graham is a free-spirited artist (she calls herself a “guerilla artist” but that’s hard to believe), and Beatty takes to her immediately.

Beatty’s Judy Moody exhausting antics in spastic scenes full of harmless destruction disinterested me to the point of wondering about Graham’s character. I kept thinking a dark side that she was running away from would be revealed (addiction, abusive relationship, something sinister), but then I caught myself – what the Hell kind of movie did I think I was watching?

This isn’t catching up with an aging Roller-Girl! This is a loud and brightly lit kid’s romp in which the only thing close to edgy is poop and vomit jokes.

I really feel out of my element writing about this movie. The kids at the preview screening were howling with laughter, while every tired gag made me roll my eyes. But again, this isn’t a movie for me.

It’s a disposable candy wrapper of a movie, that I bet kids will outgrow right after seeing it. Schultz seems to have found his niche making such teenybopper tripe. I’m sure it pays the bills, but when I think back to his promising debut BANDWAGON, it just doesn’t seem right.

At least Connells fans who take their kids to it will enjoy trying to pick out lead singer Doug MacMillon’s cameo (MacMillan has appeared in all of Schultz’s films).

That’s all I got out of it anyway.

More later…

My Last Night At The Varsity Theater & THE HANGOVER

As I reported before, The Varsity Theater in Chapel Hill, N.C. is in a period of transition. The owner, Bruce Stone, is still in negotiations and nobody knows whether it’ll remain open as it changes hands or if it will close unsold. This is all so timely as I will no longer be working at the theater. Since my move to Raleigh I’ve decided I no longer want to commute, so yesterday was my last night working my all-time favorite part-time job. We were opening 2 new movies – oddly enough both feature Mike Tyson – so I needed to change the marquee for the last time. Of course, it rained last evening (which seems to be a Thursday night tradition here) so I wasn’t feeling particularly sentimental as I climbed the ladder.

All evening I fielded questions about the fate of the theater. Stone joked last weekend that our official line to everybody was: “We’re confused.” So we’ve been saying that (or variations thereof). David Fellerath wrote this insightful article in this week’s Independent about not just the Varsity and its sister theater the Chelsea’s fate but about the bleak business and uncertain future of independent art houses these days:

The Unknown Futures Of Chapel Hill’s Varsity And Chelsea Theaters: The Moviegoer’s Lament
(Independent Weekly June 3rd, 2009)


Another Thursday night tradition is to have a late showing (not open to the public unless you know somebody) of the new movie that is opening the next day. I definitely wasn’t going to miss the late show my last night at the Varsity:


THE HANGOVER (Dir. Todd Phillips, 2009)

“A bachelor party movie where you never see the bachelor party” is how director Phillips, responsible for the likes of OLD SCHOOL and STARSKY & HUTCH, described this Las Vegas-set silliness to The New York Times. Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms play the overgrown child protagonists who wake to find themselves in way over their heads after a night of stag party debauchery. In their trashed hotel suite they find that the groom (Justin Bartha) is missing, Helms has a tooth missing, a Bengal tiger is in the bathroom, and there’s a baby in the closet. They remember nothing of what happened so you might expect more than a little of DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR? mixed with just a dash of THREE MEN AND A BABY and you wouldn’t be far off.

Galifianakis, in the Belushi/Jack Black role, has the funniest lines and frequently steals the movie from his co-stars. The one-liners come fast and furious but sadly there are a lot of stale comic stylizations like, for instance, a Tarentino slow-motion group walk towards the camera with “Who Let The Dogs Out” blaring on the soundtrack. As the events of the night before are revealed there are some tasty turns – Mike Tyson, playing himself, as the tiger’s owner and Heather Graham as a hooker that Helms finds he’s now married to have their charms but some other plot points and clich├ęd character bits fall flat.

As likable as the leads are, THE HANGOVER is only fitfully funny but I would still say it’s has enough genuine laughs in it to meet my comedy quota. It is a definite improvement over Phillips previous lowbrow fare as it shows he can handle natural feeling rhythms, timing, and tone. While another draft (or 2) on the screenplay probably wouldn’t have made this a comedy classic, it feels a tad undercooked so this is a pretty reserved recommendation. However, I suspect it may have a re-watchability factor and that some elements might rub me better sometime down the line. Maybe, like a real hangover, when the annoying pangs wear off I’ll be able to remember the best of the original buzz.

Okay! So that was my last night working at the Varsity. I’ll miss working on Franklin Street and downtown Chapel Hill in general. I would usually post recent pictures of the marquee on the sidebar on this blog and that’s something I’ll also miss. But don’t worry, this change won’t affect this blog much – I love
movies and will continue to see as many movies as possible and tell you what I think. I’ll also keep you updated on the respective fates of the Varsity and Chelsea Theaters…so please – stay tuned.

More later…