The story line focuses on Judy’s efforts to avoid a boring summer by creating a contest with her friends: the “Judy Moody Mega-Rare NOT-BUMMER-Summer Dare.” Obsessed with earning “thrill points,” Judy misses opportunities to have fun and focuses instead on the negative: her best friends’ going out of town, her parents’ leaving her home with little brother Stink and Aunt Opal (a.k.a.“Aunt Awful”), and all of her dares going awry. While Judy’s mishaps are entertaining, a sub-plot involving Stink hunting Bigfoot seems a bit random, although it does play a crucial role in the movie’s chaotic, action-driven ending.
The director focuses too much on capturing outrageous reactions of the characters — or should I say caricatures? The overacting in this film verged on nauseating. Parris Mosteller’s portrayal of Judy’s younger brother, Stink, was particularly grating. Stink may be the little brother, but author Megan McDonald never makes him unlikeable in her books. In fact, McDonald started a separate series about him. But Mosteller’s almost nonexistent acting skills combined with his babyish speech (inconsistent with his character’s age) made me want to walk out of the theater.
Big-name draw Heather Graham is probably most believable (and that’s not saying much) in her role as the fun but irresponsible Aunt Opal. Exaggeration worked with her character, although at times it still came across as overacting. Steve Urkel — I mean, Jaleel White — was forgettable as teacher Mr. Todd. Jordana Beatty as Judy, while fairly spot-on in capturing the beloved character’s quirky nature, was actually hampered by the Judy Moody lingo. On paper, “mega-rare” and “TOADally” work well, but when you hear them spoken aloud, the lines are just groan-worthy.
Even though Megan McDonald was one of the screenwriters, this film did a poor job of representing what I love about the Judy Moody books: Judy’s a self-involved but relatively normal kid who says and does believable things. Kids relate to her. When the kids in my theater audience were not laughing during the film, I knew something was wrong. I quickly realized the film’s biggest problem: it talks down to its primary audience with characters so corny, overdrawn, and unrealistic that kids don’t find them funny. Moral of the story: don’t condescend to your audience. Judy Moody deserves more respect and so do her devoted fans. Roar!