Super Beginners (Weekly Links)

Links to reviews I wrote for the Herald this week, and etc.

Super 8. “Mostly a cardboard experience.”

Beginners. “One whimsical affectation on top of another.”

Submarine. “As self-conscious as its protagonist.”

Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer. (dead link; review below)

By Robert Horton

When a third grader faces an endless summer, it means something different from the hang-loose break imagined by grown-ups. For Judy Moody, the summer means only boredom. Which is why she makes up a very complicated summer “to do” graph, a series of totally fun activities for her friends. Ingrates that they are, most of her best buds take off with their families for vacation, leaving Judy even more bored than she already was.

Something will turn up, of course, or there wouldn’t be a movie called “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer.” Adapted from a children’s book series by Megan McDonald, this film is aimed at a very young audience, and is extremely loud and frantic.

Judy, played by Jordana Beatty, lives in a large modern featureless house of the kind you see in movies like this, apparently located in some bland zone that doesn’t resemble city or suburb, although it passes as either. No wonder she’s bored. As it turns out, even Judy’s parents are leaving for a while, so she and her younger brother Stink will be tended by their Aunt Opal. No bluehair lady, Aunt Opal is played by Roller Girl herself, Heather Graham, wearing hippie beads and glitter and operating in a permanent cloud of ditziness. A self-described artist, she is generally getting into something messy.

Throw in the rumored presence of Bigfoot, and you’ve got something like a summer for Judy. Stink, whose nickname suggests his parents should consult a psychology manual, is obsessed with all things Sasquatch, so talk of Bigfoot is in the air even before the climactic sequences.

The movie has music, jokes, and goes on for about 91 minutes. How most grown-ups will get through this I don’t know, but I suppose eight-year-old girls will at least be able to admire Judy Moody’s spunk, if not her rat’s-nest hairdo. Although maybe that as well. In general, this film feels like a big-screen example of what Nickelodeon and its cable-TV ilk have wrought. It might work as a Saturday morning TV show, but as a movie experience it’s pretty nerve-fraying, if you’re over the age of ten.

On KUOW’s “Weekday,” I talk with Steve Scher about Super 8 and the odd fact that people are now making movies as homages to “old Steven Spielberg movies.” It’s archived here; the movie bit kicks in at the 17:10 mark.

At What a Feeling!, more 1980s reviews, this one for Hail Mary, back in the days when reviewers complained that Jean-Luc Godard made movies that couldn’t be answered by the question, “But what does it mean?” Oh wait, that’s today.