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Movie Review: Ramona and Beezus

July 23, 2010
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Almost six decades of children have grown up with Ramona Quimby, the precocious heroine of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona book series. Ramona and Beezus was published in 1955, but Cleary didn’t flesh out the series until well into the 1970′s.  This new film adaptation is based on Ramona Forever, which was published in 1984.

Ramona (newcomer Joey King) is struggling with the banalities of being a nine year old  middle child.  Older sis Beezus (Selena Gomez) is cute and perfect, and her baby sister is the apple of every one’s eye, because she is, after all, a baby.

Ramona marches to the beat of her own drum, a trait that has not been fully embraced by her frosty school teacher, played by Sandra Oh.  She’s also a one-girl demolition crew, wreaking havoc (unintentionally) wherever she goes. In general, everyone is constantly exasperated with her.  The more she tries to help out, the bigger mess of things she makes.

The Quimby family boasts some freakishly good genes.  In addition to Selena Gomez, Mom Dorothy is played by Bridget Moynahan, Dad Robert is John Corbett, and Jennifer Goodwin plays Aunt Bea. It’s enough to give any nine year old an inferiority complex.

Josh Duhamel shows up as Bea’s old beau Hobart, and the two rekindle their relationship over the course of the movie. They make a ridiculously cute couple.

I thought this movie was okay, but nothing special.  The young actress who plays Ramona is cute, but she didn’t completely win me over as Ramona.  I was acutely aware in every scene that she was indeed acting.

The rest of the fairly pedigreed supporting cast does a decent job with some pretty saccharine sweet and hokey material, but the material was a little dull. The romance between Bea and Hobart seemed kind of odd to throw into a children’s movie.  I doubt anyone over the age of 13 will be attending this without children, and my kids were hiding their eyes any time the couple participated in a “chewy kiss” as they call it.

Every time Ramona faces an obstacle, things  turn out terrific.  The most egregious example of this is when she accidentally ruins Hobart’s beloved vehicle by spilling house paint (of every color imaginable) over the entire top of the car, ensuring that it drips down the sides of the vehicle and covers every square inch. It’s a disaster.

Initially he is horrified, but when he sees how upset Ramona is, he becomes all smiles, and tells her that he actually likes that his SUV looks like an Easter Egg.  Then he proceeds to drive it around town for the next few months.  Come on, people don’t act like that. It’s just one of many examples in which tension is dissipated so that everyone lives happily ever after. *Yawn*

I’m not really heartless, the reason that I was disappointed is because the film flirts with some pretty adult situations that a lot of children are facing right now.  Ramona’s father loses his job, they might lose the house, mom has to go back to work and understandably, the parents argue given this string of unforeseen events.

But the perfect family finds a perfect ending to their perfectly relatable problems. It’s all wrapped up in a pretty bow, with everyone laughing and celebrating.  Even the mean school teacher thaws out a bit.  I suppose that is a fitting ending for a movie geared toward children, and my children loved it.

Parental advisory:  Rated G. This is a fairly innocuous film.  I do think it would provide a good jumping off point to discuss the realities of economic problems with kids. It also handles parents fighting in a pretty non-scary way.  When Mr. Cleary sleeps on the couch one night, he explains to the children, “mom and dad are taking a time out from each other tonight.”  I think that is a good way to put it.

Beware that there is a fairly traumatic death of a pet, I don’t want anyone to be blindsided by that, it’s definitely fodder for tears. I was pretty happy that the minute we left the theater, my eight year old was begging for the books.  Any movie that encourages kids to read is okay by me.

Rating 2.5/5, though my kids would say 5/5

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