Where grade schooler Ramona Quimby (Joey King) goes, trouble soon follows. No matter what she does or how hard she tries, things always goes wrong, even something as simple as washing the neighbor’s jeep, Her sister, Beatrice (Selena Gomez), shakes her head at her little sister’s antics as the little girl comes of age in “Ramona and Beezus.”
Beatrice was saddled with her nickname, Beezus, when Ramona was a toddler and could not pronounce “Beatrice.” The teenager has a crush on high school classmate Henry (Hutch Dano) and Ramona knows it. Their dad, Bob (John Corbett), “crunches numbers” for a living and mom, Dorothy (Bridget Moynahan), stays at home to care for infant Roberta (Aila and Zanti McCubbing.) Life is good for the Quimby family until the tough economy takes its toll and Bob loses his well-paying job. There is whispered talk between mom and dad about losing their home and Ramona plans to belly up to the bar and earn the money to save the family.
“Ramona and Beezus” is a charming, funny film that is aimed squarely at older kids and teens, mainly girls but boys will enjoy it, too, if they give it a chance. Ramona is an empathetic little moppet that has a hard time staying out of trouble. No matter what her good intentions, everything she does always goes bad, particularly when she is offered $100 to wash neighbor Hobart’s (Josh Duhamel) car and gives it a new paint job instead.
Beverly Cleary’s popular Ramona… novels provide the basis for screenplay by Laurie Craig and Nick Pustay and tyro director Elizabeth Allen does a first rate job bringing it to the screen. This is not just a kids’ movie following the antics of little Ramona. This is a family film (for the whole family) that deals with mature issues like financial crisis, romance and death. The fine ensemble cast gives life to the Quimbys and those around them. Besides Ramona hijinks and family woes, there is the coming of age Beezus and her budding romance with Henry (Hutch Dano), the rekindled love of long separated Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Hobart, and the family cat, Picky Picky (Miller).
There is not much out there at the theaters this summer so when a wonderful family film hits the big screen, I am rooting for it. I give it a B+.
The Quimby family of Klickitat Street are thrilled to finally be building an addition to their snug little home when dad Bob (John Corbett, "Sex and the City 2") finds out he's lost his job. Things begin to look dire, but Bob looks on the bright side thinking of all the extra time he has to spend with Roberta, "Ramona and Beezus."
Writers Laurie Craig ("Paulie," "Ella Enchanted") and Nick Pustay have taken the beloved Beverly Cleary novels of the 1950's and updated them for today without losing their wholesome goodness, director Elizabeth Allen ("Aquamarine") keeps the tone from getting saccharine and a cleverly cast ensemble work their magic to make "Ramona and Beezus" a delightful family film. Young star Joey King ("Quarantine") displays a tendency toward mugging which Allen reins in enough for it to pass for punch lines.
It's unclear why Beezus is even in the film's title, because the focus is clearly smack on middle child Ramona, whose childish inability to say Beatrice has branded her tweenage sister with an unliked moniker. Ramona isn't feeling the love these days because Roberta gets all kinds of attention for dumping apple sauce on her head and Beezus is a straight A student to Ramona's more average grades. But she's got her mom's younger sister, Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin, HBO's "Big Love"), who assures her that she's a kindred spirit, sealing the deal with a locket and picture of a nine year-old Bea looking an awfully lot like Ramona. Dad Bob is also a champion, encouraging Ramona's individuality and creativity, but in trying to help the family's financial straits, Ramona's proclivity for catastrophe will test even Dad's patience.
When Ramona decides to sell lemonade, she embarrasses Beezus in front of long-time-friend-turned-crush Henry Huggins (Hutch Dano, TV's "Zeke and Luther") and when she tries to offer car washes she ends up giving Bea's old flame Hobart's (Josh Duhamel, "Transformers," "When in Rome") Jeep an enviable paint job. In attempting to usurp classmate Susan's (Sierra McCormick) princessy place in local peanut butter commercials, Ramona ends up with burrs in her hair. The kicker comes when the family needs to move and Ramona makes an unplanned appearance during their open house. But every cloud in "Ramona and Beezus" comes with a silver lining, even if one literally ends up with egg on one's face on class picture day.
King and Corbett both overplay their hands at film's beginning but they develop great chemistry, know comic timing and settle in quickly. Selena Gomez (TV's "Wizards of Waverly Place") maturely shares the spotlight, letting King shine while filling Beezus's shoes. The two have an adult moment together when things go very wrong while mom's at her part time job that makes one feel the sisterhood. Bridget Moynahan ("The Sum of All Fears," "I, Robot") is a mom's mom, outshone by Goodwin, whose character has more fun with pratfalls and romance. Young Jason Spevack ("Sunshine Cleaning") is cute as Ramona's friend Howie, whose younger sister is a menace on a big wheel. Providing the whole with a strong dash of wry humor is Sandra Oh (TV's "Grey's Anatomy") as Ramona's teacher, whose tough exterior hides a bit of a guardian angel.
Allen is great at staging the little things that makes kids kids, like the way Ramona and Howie delight in the hole ripped into Ramona's kitchen wall or the wall she loudly jumps back into place at a wedding after deftly rescuing a touchy situation. There are a few little flights of fancy that are cute but not wholly necessary. The car wash fiasco is entirely too rigged, but the genre begs forgiveness and other bits, like a neighborhood water fight play a lot more naturally. Ramona and Dad's afternoon art project, the 'world's longest painting,' beautifully recaps the entire film while still looking like something a former art major could have made with his kid.
Cleary wrote a series of books on the Quimbys and hopefully "Ramona and Beezus" is only the first film to be adapted from them. It's the right mix of sweet and silly.
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