RAMONA AND BEEZUS (Elizabeth Allen). 104 minutes. Opens Friday (July 23). For venues, trailers and times, see Movies. Rating: NNNN
The marketing push for Ramona And Beezus focuses on kids doing kid stuff - making messes, running around, imagining elaborate fantasy worlds. Fair enough; that's how you get the short set excited to see a children's movie.[rssbreak]
What the trailers and TV spots neglect to mention is that Ramona And Beezus is also really, really good. It doesn't just honour the world of Beverly Cleary's books; it develops that world into a smart, winning and engaging movie that will appeal as much to parents as to the kids who've dragged them to the megaplex.
I had my doubts. Director Elizabeth Allen's previous feature, the tween mermaid comedy, Aquamarine, was pretty mediocre, but here - working from an eventful script by Laurie Craig and Nick Pustay and assembling a strong cast that includes Bridget Moynihan, Ginnifer Goodwin, Disney starlet Selena Gomez, Josh Duhamel, Sandra Oh and a pleasantly paternal John Corbett - she delivers something much more satisfying and organic.
Child actor Joey King (Quarantine) gets the most screen time as overconfident, accident-prone Ramona, whose flights of fancy more often than not send her crashing back to earth. But she's also struggling with some complex real-world issues, among them her father's lack of employment and the attendant strain on the Quim-by family's fortunes.
A lesser film would have buffed out the serious elements to keep the picture light and bouncy; Ramona And Beezus doesn't, and is all the richer for it.