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…

1996 Raleigh Rock Comedy "Bandwagon" Now Streaming On Netflix Instant

John Schultz’s 1996 directorial debut BANDWAGON has never been released on DVD, but it’s available now streaming on Netflix Instant.

This is great news as its a hilarious indie mostly locally shot, and features a strong soundtrack with songs by Greg Kendall.

The film focuses on a fictional band just starting out named Circus Monkey – an endearing quartet of indie underdogs played by Lee Holmes, Kevin Corrigan, Steve Parlavecchio, and Matthew Hennessey.

N.C. native Schultz (formerly the drummer for the Connells) enlisted his old band mate lead singer Doug MacMillan to play the band’s zen-like manager Linus Tate.

Many area locations can be seen throughout the film including the Brewery, the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, andthere’s a climatic concert set at the Rialto Theatre.Holmes is the protagonist, an earnest withdrawn guitarist/songwriter who seems to use the name Ann in every song he writes – “So Long (Ann)”, “Ann It Goes”, and the incredibly catchy “It Couldn’t Be Ann” among them.

Holmes meets drummer Hennessey who is working as a clerk at School Kids Records, and before you know it they soon recruit bassist Parlavecchio and lead guitarist Corrigan to join their band.

Corrigan is for sure the most recognizable actor in BANDWAGON as he’s gone on to be in many films and television series including PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, Freaks And Geeks, Community, and UNSTOPPABLE.

The bulk of the film concerns the band taking to the road in a old beat-up van with manager MacMillan in tow.

Circus Monkey’s scrappy misadventures involving a gun, bar brawls, and the object of Holmes’ affection – Ann (Lisa Keller) keep the film rolling from beat to beat.

Despite some stiff acting, BANDWAGON is a thoroughly enjoyable musical comedy that is really nice to see again – I long ago lost my VHS copy of the film so I was thrilled to find out from a friend that it is available via Netflix Instant.

Indie comedy fans as well as rock fans of all kinds should eat it up too.

More later…