Selena Gomez, Joey King, John Corbett, Bridget Moynahan, Ginnifer Goodwin, Sandra Oh and Josh Duhamel
Laurie Craig, Nick Pustay (based upon books by Beverly Cleary)
20th Century Fox
My Ramona with Author Beverly Cleary
Show & Tell Film School - Tips and tricks on how kids can make their own movie
If ever you were looking for a family friendly, child safe film for the entire family then 20th Century Fox's Ramona and Beezus would likely be one of your leading candidates. Of course, most parents these days it seems are not exactly looking for such retro styled, innocent family fare as I've found evidenced repeatedly at screenings ranging from Precious to Splice to any number of horror flicks during which I inevitably spy parent after parent traipsing in with young children in tow.
At the age of 94, author Beverly Cleary continues to write but it is the adventures of the young, sweet and unfathomably delightful Ramona, a 9-year-old girl who lives on Klickitat Street in Portland, Oregon with her sister, parents, Aunt Bea and friend Henry Huggins that turned Cleary into a household name.
There is something to be said for innocence, of which there is very little in cinema today. While young Ramona has always been infinitely mischievous, the beloved character is a true American icon of children's literature with her trademark sweetness and irrepressible spirit.
Directed by Elizabeth Allen (Aquamarine), Ramona and Beezus attempts to tackle the difficult task of having one nearly movie cover all of the Ramona books. Indeed, it is rather refreshing that Ramona and Beezus does not present itself as yet another in a long line of attempted franchise films, though it likely goes without saying that 20th Century Fox would be willing to revisit Ramona should this film prove to be a blockbuster.
Blockbuster status seems a tad unlikely for the film, though, even with the presence of the Disney Channel's Selena Gomez and a host of moderately familiar B-list actors in the adult roles along with newcomer Joey King as the 9-year-old Ramona.
In the film, Ramona lives with her 15-year-old sister Beatrice (Gomez), her parents (John Corbett and Bridget Moynahan) along with her Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin) when dad is downsized and mom can only find part-time work. The sisters are perpetually in conflict, or at least as much conflict as one can find in a G-rated flick, because Beatrice (or, yes, "Beezus") is a straight-A student who grows weary of Ramona's attention and antics while Ramona feels lost in the shadows of her successful big sister. Can they unite long enough to help the family.
Surely you know the answer.
Fans of Cleary's books of young and old are likely to find Allen's interpretation of Ramona's world enchanting despite it being set in a contemporary Portland. Fans of Allen's last film Aquamarine, all four of you, are likely to marvel at Allen's growth as a director and her ability to create such an inspired, good-hearted and faithful in spirit cinematic experience.
It would seem that virtually the entire ensemble cast is either familiar with the film's source material or that Allen has managed to instill in them a remarkable sense of the wonder and spirit of Ramona's world as the entire ensemble cast really nicely brings each character to life.
It starts with a spot-on perfect performance from newcomer Joey King, who elicits smile after smile as the precocious young girl who always means well even when she seemingly does everything wrong. She's matched note for note, somewhat surprisingly, by Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place) who manages to play both the constantly irritated older sister and the infinitely loyal older sister with equal ease and energy. Both King and Gomez are as adept at comic acting as they are in the film's more serious moments, adding up to performances that feel far richer than one usually expects in G-rated family fare. Corbett, a bit of a surprise choice to play dad, is nonetheless up to the task while Bridget Moynahan would be right at home on Leave it to Beaver.
Among the adults, Ginnifer Goodwin may very well shine most brightly as the adult with whom Ramona seemingly most identifies as she was a younger sibling herself. Josh Duhamel shows up for some courtin' with Aunt Bea, a not so promising development that will need to be addressed. Goodwin and Duhamel project a wonderful, easygoing chemistry that fits the film's generally good nature quite nicely.
Directing off a script by Laurie Craig and Nick Pustay, Elizabeth Allen does a wonderful job of blending the film's contemporary setting within the context of Cleary's 50 year old writing. Allen paints a bright and light cinematic picture here, and throws in some inventive fanciful images that seem befitting of an imaginative 9-year-old.
It would be difficult to deny that Ramona and Beezus is not much more than light, breezy cinema for a hot summer day.
What's wrong with that?
While Ramona and Beezus may not break any new ground, it accomplishes, one would imagine, what Cleary set out to imagine when she created these delightful characters over 50 years ago...it makes you laugh, it makes you smile, it makes you appreciate and it makes you want to look around and hug those gosh darn wonderful people in your life.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic