In the kiddie comedy Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer, our irrepressible young heroine makes plans for the greatest school break - ever. But events conspire against her.
The plot mirrors the film itself: An ambitious attempt to adapt Megan McDonald's book series to the screen that for all its breeziness, never quite gets its kite off the ground.
Judy Moody has some enjoyable ingredients. The cast, for instance, rocks it, especially young Aussie actress Jordana Beatty as the title character, a bottle rocket with unruly red hair.
Heather Graham also charms as Aunt Opal, the dazzlingly free-spirited relative who comes to take care of Judy and her younger brother Stink (Parris Mosteller). This self-described "guerrilla artist" is like an Auntie Mame for prepubescents.
Also popping up in the ensemble are Jaleel White (Steve Urkel on TV's Family Matters) as Judy's imaginative teacher, Mr. Todd, and Janet Varney, cohost of TBS's Dinner and a Movie as her myopic mother.
Director John Schultz ushers the film along with a brisk visual brio that still manages to feel perfunctory.
The story is patched together with the extraneous thread of Stink's Bigfoot obsession.
There's a faint but unmistakable air of pretense to the project, too many adult thumbprints on Judy's Magic 8 Ball. And it's a little distracting that Beatty looks like a mature middle schooler rather than the perennial third grader of the books.
The result is a film that's energetic but not entirely engaging, fun but never truly funny. It's like being at a party Kate Gosselin is throwing for her sextuplets: The frivolity feels strained.
Contact staff writer David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his pop-culture blog at www.philly.com/dod.