Making the Grades
Releasing just as the school year ends for millions of children, it’s certain the distributors of this movie are hoping the pent up student population will pour from classrooms straight into movie theaters to see Judy Moody.
A precocious 3rd grader, Judy is determined to have the best summer ever. So she has put together a poster sporting a list of "must dos." Each activity completed will score a level of thrill points. If all goes as scheduled, Judy and her best friends Rocky and Amy (Garrett Ryan and Taylar Hender) will end up with 100 thrill points, signifying a super season. It appears to be the perfect plan until both buddies announce they are already booked into far more exciting plans. Rocky is headed to circus camp and Amy is off to Borneo with her globetrotting mother to find a "lost tribe." That leaves Judy with only her second best friend Frank (Preston Bailey) and irritating little brother Stink (Parris Mosteller). Sadly, her younger sibling has already decided how he will wile away the sunny days searching for Bigfoot!
Could things possibly be worse?
Judy thinks her doldrums dilemma might be solved when her mom and dad announce a sudden need to go to California to care for an aging relative. But the possible thrills of two months on the west coast are immediately dashed when she learns the kids are being left behind in the care of Aunt Opal (Heather Graham).
Arriving with a steamer trunk full of exotic clothes and crafts, Opal quickly sets up shop and resolves to help her niece and nephew find some fun within their community. However, even this idea presents a challenge as Opal has spent far more time wandering the planet in sandals than she has driving, raising kids or keeping a house in order.
With a literally animated imagination, Judy’s dreams break into cartoonish escapades that represent her desires of bettering her brother and besting her friends at scoring thrill points. Yet, in reality, working through the events on her list continually results in disappointing outcomes. This is usually due to Frank or Stink not meeting her expectations. For instance, a hands-in-the-air roller coaster ride is too much for Frank’s candy-gorged stomach (leavings his friend covered in florescent green vomit) and a night at a scary movie fest ends early when the young man decides he really doesn’t enjoy frightening features. Meanwhile, Stink’s mind continues to be squarely focused on finding the elusive giant forest creature. And Judy’s disapproval of his goal only intensifies after the boy’s scat collection is accidentally mixed into a picnic lunch.
Unfortunately this popular children’s book loses some of its charm in its conversion to a screenplay. The action often goes over the top making it less likely young audiences will relate to the characters. Aunt Opal’s inability to drive sends her careening through residential front yards. In one case she hits an inflatable castle sending it flying over the car and then drags it down the street. When the toy finally comes to a stop, a small boy emerges with a big smile on his face. In another scene, a car chases after "Bigfoot" leaving in its wake property damage that would certainly cause injuries in a realistic scenario.
Some pre-adolescents will find entertainment in Judy’s adventure that eventually helps the youngster realize she doesn’t need to be at the center of attention in order to enjoy life. Perhaps the best thing the movie has to offer is its concept. Judy’s proactive initiative may motivate kids to make their own plans for the summer ahead.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer.
How did Judy’s expectations make it more difficult to enjoy her summer? How did her need to be better than others also interfere with her ability to have fun?
Is Bigfoot real? You can find out more by visiting The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, a group that claims to be, "The only scientific research organization exploring the bigfoot/sasquatch mystery."
Learn more about the Judy Moody Book series by Megan McDonald at: http://www.judymoody.com/