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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer


Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer (One and a Half Stars)

U.S.: John Schultz, 2011

Hard to believe. But there really is a move called “Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer.”

 And yes, it really is based on a popular kiddie book of the same title, about energetic third grader Judy and what a bummer her summer is. And yes, yes, YES, they’ve made a really terrible movie out of this book, complete with that overemphasized NOT in the title. (The writer insists on it.) The movie stars Jordana Beatty, an energetic young red-headed Australian actress, and she plays a zippy suburban third grader, who lives in a neighborhood where everybody yells and acts stupid, and the dogs keep pooping on the lawns. (Or it feels like they do.) In the course of the film, Judy keeps running around trying to have fun — and complaining that she doesn‘t, that nothing happening in her neighborhood is entertaining. You can say that again.

 By the way, the hit kiddie book, part of a series, was written by successful author Megan McDonald, who also co-wrote the script for this awful movie. So she can’t blame anyone else, for ruining her work — or at least for ruining it without her help.

 Anyway, here’s what happens. Judy and her brother Stink (Paris Mosteller) and Judy’s nerdy friend Frank (Preston Bailey) are left to their own devices when Judy‘s chirpy parents (Janet Varney and Kristoffer Winters) go off for the summer (they’re pretty selfish too) after Judy’s other good friends head off for Borneo or a circus camp. This spoils Judy‘s plan to have a huge chart on which they’ll all accumulate “thrill points” for doing things like taking roller coaster rides (and barfing) and going to scary movies (and running away). Then they’ll decide at the end who had the most fun. Wow! Fun! Yay! (They need a chart for that?) (I know, I can’t believe I‘m writing this synopsis either.)

 So that’s the story of this really bummer of a summer, this dumber of a slummer, this hummer of a flummery (and this bummer of a movie) for Judy and Stink and Frank and wacky Aunt Opal. (Heather Graham tries to look as if she hasn’t had this much fun since Bowfinger, but I‘ll bet she has.)

 Oh, I forgot to mention something: Brother Stink has this obsession with Big Foot, and he has some dopey older friends who are also obsessed with Big Foot, who is supposedly prowling around someplace in the area, pursued by Stink and the other Big Footies, as well as all those dogs who poop all over everything. Now you’ve been prepared for the smash surprise climax.


 Just kidding.


 What’s this movie like? It’s loud, Its garish. It’s dopey. It’s shameless. As Rip Torn said to Norman Mailer in Beyond the Law, It’s a bummer. John Schultz directs the picture as if Big Foot were chasing him through fields of dog-doody and he’d lost his pooper-scooper. Everybody in the movie including the kids jolly teacher, Mr. Todd (Jaleel White) seems to have a screw loose somewhere. Judy herself struck me as often behaving like an obnoxious, selfish little brat, who maybe deserves to have a bummer summer. (Jordana Beatty just deserves a better movie.)

 Is that enough for you? It should be. Believe me, you’re in pretty good shape right now. You’re in the wonderful position of NOT having to see Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer and of NOT having to think about seeing it, as soon as you’ve finished reading this review– unless you have daughters who read the book and insist on checking it out, in which case I strongly advise you to NOT see it with them. Instead, drop them off at the multiplex and go off to see something else, anything else. Even a “Saw” movie.

 You should find better books for them to read though — or NOT to read. And I’m not talking “Diary of a NOT Wimpy Kid.”

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon