Ramona and Beezus is thoroughly pleasant, and while that may sound like a case of damning a movie with faint praise, the truth is that this is one of the most enjoyable family films of the summer.
Adapted from Beverly Cleary’s perennially popular book series, the movie stars Joey King as Ramona Quimby, a grade-schooler with a big imagination. So big, in fact, that she often clashes with her no-nonsense teacher (Sandra Oh). When Ramona’s upbeat dad (John Corbett) loses his job, the family -- including her teenage sister, Beezus (Selena Gomez), and their practical-minded mother (Bridget Moynahan) -- must make major adjustments, like dad learning how to run the house. Ramona dreams up various plans to make money so that she can save their house, but because everybody in the family seems too preoccupied to help her with her own worries, she turns to the one person who always has time for her, Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin). But even Aunt Bea is distracted these days because her ex-boyfriend -- and Quimby family next-door neighbor -- Hobart (Josh Duhamel) keeps trying to win Bea back.
While there is certainly a fair amount of drama alongside the many laughs in Ramona and Beezus, screenwriters Laurie Craig and Nick Pustay make sure that it’s the characters, and not the conflict, that drive the story. The fears an eight-year-old might feel at the thought of being forced to move are treated respectfully, not played for laughs, and newcomer Joey King gives as warm and winning a performance as you’re likely to see from anyone so young. She’s appealing without being cloying, and the adults in the film are the same way -- nobody gives the indication that they are above this material.
As she has so many times already, Ginnifer Goodwin steals the movie. Her effortless naturalism is a rare and powerful commodity for a performer, and she has it in droves -- there isn’t an ounce of self-consciousness in this performance. Somebody needs to put her in a big blockbuster of a movie so that she can become what she deserves to be -- America’s Sweetheart. She’s like an irresistible force of goodwill, and what’s amazing is that she’s so extraordinarily charming that she overwhelms Duhamel -- an actor who looks like Johnny Knoxville’s frat-boy brother and exudes the smarmy toolishness of Jeremy Piven -- and transforms him into someone we can root for.
Because all the characters seem so genuine and likeable, Ramona and Beezus addresses the realistic concerns of an eight-year-old without boring adults. One of the companies responsible for the movie is Walden Media, and in just a few years they’ve become one of the more dependable outfits for producing live-action family-friendly films. Bridge to Terabithia, Bandslam, Holes, and Nim’s Island are all smartly written, sensitively acted movies, and Ramona and Beezus fits comfortably right beside them.
Children, particularly girls, should love this movie for the same reason kids have loved the books for decades. Ramona might be one of the first fictional characters little ones discover that they can relate to so strongly, and who inhabits a world that is realistic and familiar. The books have probably helped numerous children become avid readers, and Ramona and Beezus stands a really good chance of turning more than a few kids into movie buffs.
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- Released: 2010
- Rating: G
- Review: Ramona and Beezus is thoroughly pleasant, and while that may sound like a case of damning a movie with faint praise, the truth is that this is one of the most enjoyable family films of the summer. Adapted from Beverly Cleary’s perennially popular book… (more)