MRR Movie Review: Ramona and Beezus

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Based on the popular childrens' book series by Beverly Cleary, this 2010 film adaptation stars Selena Gomez and Joey King as the two fun-loving sisters Beezus and Ramona.
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Movie Review: "Ramona and Beezus"

-- Rating: G
Length: 103 minutes
Release Date: July 23, 2010
Directed by: Elizabeth Allen
Genre: Adventure/Comedy/Family

It is a daunting job to adapt material from children's books, especially when those books span several generations and are perennial favorites of each upcoming generation. Such is the case with "Ramona and Beezus," an adaptation of the beloved Beverly Cleary novels that tell the tales of Ramona (Joey King) and her teenage sister Beezus (Selena Gomez). Despite the daunting task, director Elizabeth Allen pulls it off by striking the right balance between conflict and sweetness between the two sisters.

Beezus clearly loves her sister, but finds her to be annoying most of the time. Ramona is always making some kind of mischief, even if most of it is accidental. There is not a bad bone in her body, but trouble always seems to find her, which just serves to exasperate Beezus, father Ralph (John Corbett), and mother Dorothy (Bridget Moynahan). Fortunately, Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin) finds Ramona's antics to be funny and endearing, making her Ramona's confidant and best friend for most of the film.

The real action starts in earnest when Robert is laid off from his job, which barely kept a roof over his family's head. With little savings and a mortgage that they can't pay, the family is thrust into turmoil over a possible foreclosure.

Ramona decides that she needs to help her family before they lose her home, but doesn't quite know how to do it. She is too young to get a job, or even do things like babysitting neighborhood kids. What she does have is an imagination as big as the Grand Canyon, and the determination to put her hyperactive brain to good use. This is an endearing character trait, although with her penchant for klutziness and accidental disasters, it could be a bad thing overall for her family.

Much of the rest of the film focuses on Ramona's harebrained attempts at making money. She tries to enlist help from her mom and dad, who are too preoccupied with dollar signs and mortgage papers to pay close attention to her pleas. She then tries to get Beezus to help out, but not only does she act like a put-upon teenager, she is focused almost exclusively on her burgeoning crush on neighbor Henry Huggins (Hutch Dano), who is another character mainstay from Cleary's books. She then turns to Aunt Bea who is distracted by Uncle Hobart's (Josh Duhamel) attempts to woo her back after their failed romance.

That leaves Ramona to her own devices, which is good news for the audience because hilarity ensues as she tries to manage things on her own. With a hardened, determined glare, she proceeds to get into one predicament after another, which helps King show off her penchant for physical comedy and facial reactions. After seeing this film, the audience can only hope that King continues to make movies, since her talent is likely to only grow as she gets older.

Duhamel is a standout among the actors, mostly because he manages to make poor Uncle Hobart something of a sad sack when the film begins. He has just moved back in with his mom, which is a humiliating thing for almost any adult who used to be independent. Duhamel is a handsome man by almost any standard, but he manages to hide his good looks to turn Hobart into an average guy who just wants to win the love of his life back.

Gomez also turns in a fine performance as Beezus, who is decidedly less tomboyish than the Beezus of Cleary's books. Still, the essence of the character is very much present here, which may be because of screenwriters Laurie Craig and Nick Putsay. It seems clear that Craig and Putsay were fans of the source material, because the movie acts as a homage to Cleary's vision of a Portland that is a far cry from today's modern age.

The writers also manage to cull from several of the Ramona-centric books, which is further evidence that they were fans before they wrote the screenplay. Director Allen does right by their script, getting great performances out of the cast and doing great camera work while capturing the action from Ramona's many misadventures. There are still plenty of Cleary novels that can be adapted, and this writing/directing trio should be at the top of the list should any more of them get made.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars