Mark Reviews Movies


2 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Elizabeth Allen

Cast: Joey King, Selena Gomez, John Corbett, Bridget Moynahan, Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Duhamel, Jason Spevack, Sandra Oh

MPAA Rating: G

Running Time: 1:44

Release Date: 7/23/10

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Review by Mark Dujsik | July 22, 2010

Nine-year-old Ramona Quimby (Joey King) is a pest to her teenage sister Beatrice (Selena Gomez). Her nickname "Beezus" came from a young Ramona's inability to pronounce the name, much to the chagrin of the elder sibling, who now is noticing an childhood male friend of hers in a different sort of way and feels left out by the attention Ramona attracts just by being herself.

Ramona takes after her father (John Corbett), who studied art in college but had to take a career he needed to start to help pay the bills for his growing family. He goofs around with his kids regularly, dancing in that silly way Beezus says embarrasses her, but she and everyone else knows that's not entirely true. He'll doodle little sketches for Ramona, and she thinks he's so great that he could do anything—even become a firefighter.

Ramona—like her dad must have similarly done at one time in his life—daydreams herself in a colorful, papier-mâché world, where a hole in the wall of the house becomes the open hatch of a plane out of which to skydive. A walk down the street shifts into a sightseeing tour of the world. A trip across the rings on the playground is a treacherous adventure across a chasm.

Her teacher (Sandra Oh) thinks she lacks focus. The other kids in her class, like curly, blonde-haired aspiring actress Susan (Sierra McCormick), think she's odd. Even her best friend and neighbor Howie (Jason Spevack), hoping to be at least somewhat popular, can't stand up for her all the time.

Based on the books by Beverly Cleary (which classmates of mine were reading when I was a kid, as were schoolmates of my younger sister, and, clearly, school kids even still today), Ramona and Beezus, Elizabeth Allen's screen adaptation of the everyday misadventures of the rambunctious Ramona, is, at times, an endearing look at the common joys and fears of childhood. The movie does succumb to the temptation of wanting to do too much with the little it has.

There is no real plot of which to speak in Laurie Craig and Nick Pustay's screenplay, and that's the way it should be. It is, in its small snapshot of a way, only the story of a young girl trying to grow up and failing through no fault of her own except in trying too hard—reaching too high.

Dad loses his accounting job, and while it means more time at home with his favorite girls, other kids know differently. It's the first step to dad and mom (Bridget Moynahan) fighting, which is the first step to divorce. Ramona overhears her father mention something about the bank coming to take the house away, which she imagines exactly as a kid her age would: The bank brings in a crane, lifts the house off its foundation, and lowers the abode onto the back of a flatbed, leaving the door and its frame intact for the family to watch out of in horror.

This is effective, and the relationships between family members are honest and strong—some more than others. Ramona and her mom don't have too much to do with each other, and in the place of mother/daughter bonding is the girl's relationship with Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin), who will climb up a tree to have a heart-to-heart with her niece. The love/hate relationship between Ramona and Beezus is played well by King and Gomez. The heart of the movie, though, comes from Ramona and her dad, a sweet, tender rapport between two minds that are too alike at times.

A few things distract too much from the family dynamic, primarily Bea and Beezus' difficulties with the men in their lives. Bea's high-school sweetheart Hobart (Josh Duhamel) returns to his childhood home next door to the Quimbys and wants to reconnect with his old flame, while Beezus can't quite put into the right words how she feels about best-friend Henry (Hutch Dano) now that hormones have come into play. Allen's clunky staging and pacing of scenes leads to a few awkward moments (See the opening dinner and comic setpieces, like Ramona's audition for a commerical), and while the concept for Ramona's imagination is sound, it is particularly infrequent and drab when it appears.

Some of these are more easily forgiven, but the romantic subplots of Ramona and Beezus draw far too much attention away from Ramona and her world. The more, where there could be less, has the story dragging its feet.

Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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