Movie Review: Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer

MV5BMjA4NDc0NzI5OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjc0MDA4NA@@._V1._SY317_

 

Directed by: John Schultz

MPAA Rating: PG

Interest Range: 8-10

Genre: Comedy

Plot: Judy Moody had the perfect plan for making the summer after third grade their best one yet- a competition for who could complete the most thrilling dares, the goal being 100 thrill points and proving their summer was full of exciting and memorable happenings. But then two of her closest friends are leaving for the summer, one for circus camp and the other to the rainforests of Borneo. And if that wasn’t enough, Judy’s parents have to leave town to help out their extended family so their yearly trip to Grandma’s house isn’t happening. Instead, Aunt Opal is coming to stay and Judy will be stuck at home with her annoying younger brother, Stink, and her most boring friend, Frank. Judy changes her plan and emails her friends to tell them the thrills are now a race, and the first to 100 points wins- but how will she ever compete with learning to saw people in half and hanging out with monkeys?

Review: This movie was cute, and certainly points to something kids this age are worried about. Summer is supposed to be full of fun and exciting things that you can then brag about to your friends when you head back to school. Often there is nothing more dismal than looking ahead to a summer full of nothing. But Judy shows us how just a normal summer at home, where you think nothing is happening at all, can actually be full of quite a few thrills. It’s just what you make of it. Judy seems to be portrayed as a pretty honest 8 or 9 year old, she wants adventure and is often frustrated with her family and disappointed by her friends. She has her own sense of style, and her best friend is a boy. She’s not annoying to watch, and doesn’t seem to be some kind of caricature of a tween, although she’s definitely not going through anything too personal in this story. Ultimately, this movie made me want to take a closer look at the Judy Moody series of books. I wonder how well they adapted the main character to the screen.

Themes: Changes at Home, Building New Relationships, Humor

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Judy Moody: The title character, Judy has just gotten out of the third grade. Her friends have abandoned her for more exciting summers and Judy is left at home wondering what to do. On a few separate occasions, she decides to give up and spend the rest of the summer in her bedroom because NOTHING exciting ever happens to her. But eventually, she realizes it’s all what you make of it and she decides to turn her summer around.

Stink Moody: Judy’s little brother, who is currently obsessed with Bigfoot. The rumor of Bigfoot in the area has gotten Stink all riled up and he is convinced that he will capture the beast this summer. He’s even joined a Bigfoot Believers club.

Aunt Opal: Judy’s aunt, who they haven’t seen in many years, is in town and charged with taking care of the kids while their parents  are gone. Aunt Opal describes herself as a guerrilla artist and teaches Judy the importance of enjoying the moment and making something out of what you have in front of you. She also seems to be followed by small disasters.

Frank: Judy’s one friend who has remained in town this summer. Unfortunately, Frank is probably the least brave of the 4-member Toad Pee club and not the best match for Judy’s thrill-seeking adventures.

Bibliographic Info:

Schultz, J.(Director), Luther, B. S. (Producer), Magness, G. (Producer), & Siegel-Magness, S. (Producer). (2011). Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer [Motion picture]. United States: Smokewood Entertainment.

Tagline:

“Be careful what you wish for.”

Advertisements

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

hunger_games_ver27

 

Directed by: Gary Ross

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Interest Range: 10-adult

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian

Plot: Katniss has volunteered for the yearly government-enforced fight to the death, called the Hunger Games, to save her younger sister from certain death. She is now headed for a brief life of luxury in the Capital while training and world-building for the game are happening, before she is let loose with 23 other Tributes who will fight until only one remains. The Hunger Games are an establishment that the government has put in place to remind their people of the uprising the Districts once attempted. They are a way for the establishment to assert itself over its people every year, and make sure they acknowledge the power that is held over the people of the 12 Districts. But Katniss is special, she has a very clear reason to survive and is willing to do almost anything to get home- and the president has noticed her rebellious streak. Her life will never be the same.

Review: Since these books now appeal to such a wide audience, I was curious to see how they handled the movie. With such a violent and dark topic as a fight to the death among teenages treated as a garrish reality television show, this very easily could have been a R-rated movie. But they did a really good job of making it the least violent possible. Rarely do you see blood- and the most that is seen is from wounds like Katniss’s burn and Peeta’s cut. The most violent scenes are distorted, or sound is removed, so the viewer has an extra degree of separation from the action. Katniss and Peeta’s love story is not graphic, and at times isn’t even obvious (I watched this film with someone who had never read the books and often had to fill him in on the motives of each of the characters). I really do believe that children younger than 13 could watch this film and be ok. I think like with much dystopian writing, much of the more disturbing deeper message will go over kids’ heads due to lack of world experience. And if questions are asked, hopefully a parent will not shy away from having that conversation.

Themes: Dystopia, Inner Strength, Overcoming Challenges, Building New Relationships

Additional Info:

First in a film trilogy based on the books by Suzanne Collins. She was also involved in the writing for this film’s screenplay.

Main Characters:

Katniss Everdeen: A 16-year-old girl who is determined to survive the Hunger Games and get back to her family. She has very mixed up feelings regarding her hunting partner, Gale, and now Peeta, who has become her partner in the Hunger Games. Publicly, Peeta and Katniss are pretending to have feelings for each other, but by the end it’s unclear if everyone is still pretending- or if Peeta ever was.

Peeta Melark: The baker’s son, also from District 12. He is Katniss’s male counterpart in the Hunger Games, but obviously not as skilled at survival. He has been in love with Katniss since they were small children, and decides to make that public and play it up for popularity and the help and support of sponsors during the games.

Haymitch: District 12’s only past winner, he is given the task of mentoring all of their Tributes. Since they’ve never had another winner, one could see how this might be a very depressing task. But this year, he sees promise in Katniss and the possibility of a star-crossed lovers storyline. He manages to come out of his drunken haze to help win sponsors for the two Tributes and keep them alive.

Gale: Katniss’s hunting partner back home. Although they’ve never spoken of feelings for each other, it becomes clear that Katniss’s heart seems to lie with him. He’s promised to take care of her sister and mother while she is away.

Bibliographic Info:

Ross, G. (Director), Jacobson, N. (Producer), & Kilik, J. (Producer). (2012). The Hunger Games [Motion picture]. United States: Lionsgate, Color Force.

Tagline:

“The World Will Be Watching”

Movie Review: Despicable Me

1077404

Directors: Chris Renaud & Pierre Coffin

MPAA Rating: PG

Interest Range: 8-14

Genre: Humor, Science Fiction

Plot: Gru has a plan to become the most renowned super-villain of all time: he wants to steal the moon. But he just can’t seem to get funding from the bank for his project. They’ve told him he needs to prove his abilities by acquiring an existing shrink ray, currently held by another villain, Vector, who was made famous by his successful theft of the Great Pyramid of Giza. But Vector’s fortress is impenetrable- or is it? Vector seems to have a weakness for cookies sold by the local orphanage, and Gru begins to hatch a new plan. He will adopt some orphans of his own to help him acquire the shrink ray. Little does he know that the orphans have plans of their own. They want a family, and they’re going to do their best to get Gru to let them stick around. But can a super villain really be won over by three young girls? Especially girls who like unicorns, the color pink, and take ballet?

Review: This movie was hilarious and heartwarming, all at once. I found myself tearing up multiple times, only to be laughing again moments later. Gru certainly has only evil intentions at the beginning of the film, and one can’t help but feel bad for the girls he has chosen to involve in his plan. But despite his desire to be unlikeable and villainous, the girls seem to see through his tough exterior almost instantly and set about trying to make a real dad out of him. The few flashbacks we see of Gru throughout his life, constantly being turned down and passed over by those from whom he would seek approval makes you really feel bad for the man and his memory of these times is ultimately what breaks him down and makes him human again. Filled with lots of humor to keep kids laughing along the way, this movie is not only fun but moving too. Great for all ages.

Themes: Changes at Home, Homelessness, Light vs. Dark/Good vs. Evil,

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Gru: A man who wants nothing more than to pull off the biggest heist in history, bringing him super-villain level fame. Gru wants to steal a shrink ray so that he can then shrink and steal the moon. We learn throughout the course of the movie that even as a child Gru wanted to visit the moon, but no one thought he was capable. It was this constant lack of respect that drove him to desire to steal the moon for himself.

Vector: A younger, up-and-coming super-villain, made famous by his successful theft of the Great Pyramid of Giza. He is the current holder of a working shrink ray, which Gru needs to make his plan a reality.

Agnes, Edith, and Margo: The three young orphan girls that Gru decides to adopt as part of his plan to steal the shrink ray. Vector once let them into his fortress to buy the cookies they were selling, and Gru hopes to use the girls to get into the fortress himself. Once that part of the plan is complete, Gru plans to send the girls back to the orphanage- or leave them at an amusement park.

Bibliographic Info:

Coffin, P. (Director), Renaud, C. (Director), Cohen, J. (Producer), Healy, J. (Producer), & Meledandri, C. (Producer). (2010). Despicable Me [Motion picture]. United States: Illumination Entertainment.

Tagline:

Can a super-villain ever be a super dad?

Movie Review: Coraline

Written and Directed by: Henry Selick

MPAA Rating: PG

Interest Range: 10-adult

Genre: Fantasy, Horror

Plot: Coraline’s family has recently moved to a new house. It’s boring, and always raining, and Coraline’s parents are prone to ignore her while they both work from home. Her only form of entertainment is exploring- and watching out for Wybie, the grandson of the landlord who has taken to following Coraline around. One day Wybie drops off a surprise for Coraline, a doll he found in his Grandmother’s house that looks just like her: blue hair, yellow raincoat and boots, the only difference is a pair of button eyes. Coraline carries the doll around with her out of boredom, but assures everyone that she’s far too old to play with dolls…and then she finds the door. In the daytime, the tiny secret door opens onto nothing but a bricked up wall, but at night it’s a gateway into a whole separate world just like this one but better. Coraline’s other mother and father adore her and cook her delicious food and give her all of their attention, but now they want her to stay with them. Forever. Coraline must decide which world she wants to live in before it goes too far.

Review: I remember being struck by this movie when I saw it in the theater. It was done in 3D, and seamlessly so. Upon entering the other world, everything seemed to become interactive and beautiful, helping the viewer understand why this world was so much more appealing to a bored 11-year-old girl. It loses some of that when viewed in only 3D, but the story is still intense. While the book features a lot of Coraline’s inner struggles and monologues, allowing for the story to be mainly about her journey with bravery, the movie cannot do that. So the writer created Wybie, an odd little boy who stalks Coraline and eventually becomes her friend after helping to save her from the Belle Dame. Now, having read the book and seen the movie in close succession, I definitely appreciate the book more. But I can see how the movie would hook some children in a way the book could not. The design of the movie also creates some images that could be rather disturbing for some children, whereas the book leaves more to be interpreted in your own imagination. I included two different promotional images for the film in this post that show the juxtaposition of this film. I think that younger children will be interested in this because of the animation aspect, but may be scared off by the intensity of the underlying message and the last 30 minutes. Maybe this film is a good introduction to scary movies?

Themes: Changes at Home, Importance of Family, Building New Relationships

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Coraline Jones: An 11-year-old girl who wants to stand out. She enjoys exploring, asking questions, and looking different from everyone else. When she discovers the door and the other world, Coraline is tired of being ignored. She gladly accepts the gifts and warmth of her other family, but quickly realizes the danger she’s placed herself in.

Wybie: The grandson of the Pink Palace’s landlord, and roughly the same age as Coraline. He’s not quite used to having other kids around, since his grandmother usually doesn’t allow for tenants with children. But Coraline intrigues both him and the feral cat he keeps as a kind of pet, so he follows her to keep an eye on her.

The Belle Dame: Coraline’s other mother. A being that exists by feeding off of the lives of young children. She creates fantastic worlds to lure them into loving her, then ensnares them and uses their life up to maintain her power. She then traps the ghosts in her world, never to be released again.

Bibliographic Info:

Selick, H.(Producer and Director), & Jennings, C. (Producer). (2009). Coraline [Motion picture]. United States: Laika, Pandemonium.

Tagline:

“Be careful what you wish for.”