Joey King (right) and Selena Gomez bring Beverly Cleary’s characters to vivid life.
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.