Reviewed by: Scott Brennan
|Featuring:||Joey King (Ramona Quimby), Selena Gomez (Beezus), John Corbett (Bob Quimby), Bridget Moynahan (Dorothy Quimby), Ginnifer Goodwin (Aunt Bea), Josh Duhamel (Uncle Hobart), Sandra Oh (Mrs. Meacham), more »|
|Producer:||Fox 2000 Pictures, Walden Media, DiNovi Pictures, Denise Di Novi, Alison Greenspan, Brad Van Arragon|
|Distributor:||Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation|
“A little sister goes a long way.”
It’s official. Ramona and Beezus is a “hit” film for families! There is a line in the movie where Ramona’s teacher, Mrs. Meacham (Sandra Oh) says, “Ramona, you are extraordinary.” Well, that sentiment is the perfect description for this mid-summer sleeper. “Ramona and Beezus” is an extraordinarily positive family movie, one that everyone in the house can enjoy. I wouldn’t dream of waiting to see it when it comes to cable or DVD. Instead, this should be immediately calendared as the required family summer outing of 2010. You won’t be disappointed, that is for certain. Elizabeth Allen’s direction is excellent and to be applauded.
For those of you who may not be “in the know,” “Ramona and Beezus” is based on a series of children’s books written by world famous, Newberry Honor, and multiple-award-winning author, Beverly Cleary (a living legend), who has won her way into the hearts of millions of children and young teens since the late 1950’s. Her first book in the Ramona sequence, Beezus and Ramona was written in 1955 and focused more on Ramona’s older sister Beatrice (“Beezus” was how it came out when her younger sister Ramona pronounced her name as a young 4 year old), and having to deal with her accident-prone, exasperating little sister. The movie reversed the title since this story settled in on Ramona more than Beezus. In the movie storyline, Ramona is now 9 years and 3 months old, bugging her 15 year old sister, Beezus, on a daily basis and watching her every move which adds great fun to the film, particularly when little Roberta Quimby, the youngest of the 3 sisters, gives Ramona a taste of her own medicine.
The film really doesn’t follow that first book in the series but is rather a compelling screenplay (written by Laurie Craig and Nick Pustay) which combines different parts of storylines and characters from several of Cleary’s books and creates a wonderful story all on its own. The setting has a timeless feeling to it which seems current but could be in any neighborhood or family from the 1950‘s until today. I don’t remember a single cell phone in the film or even a current automobile. The great thing is that it does all this while staying mostly true to the Beverly Cleary characters. [As a reader of almost all the books in the series, I can attest to the writers attempt at character authenticity.] It’s been reported that many a producer and writer longed to bring these stories to the big screen, but Beverly held out until now. “Hats off” to the producers, Denise Di Novi and Alison Greenspan, and congratulations are in order to Elizabeth Gabler at Fox 2000 for helping secure the rights to the film from the Cleary clan. The rumor is that Beverly Cleary is satisfied with the results, but what she probably would be more pleased with is if the success of the film inspired another entire generation of children to read her books. Kids may have to put down the Wii and the Playstation games for a while, but it will be worth it.
Joey King, who plays Ramona Quimby, is a “revelation” on the big screen. She is not new to film or television but is sure to be a movie star—along with Selena Gomez who is already a rising star—in the very near future. She is delightful to watch and truly captures the hearts of the audience, typifying the antics of an overly imaginative child who is full of zest for life but whose actions often lead to accidents. Everyone can relate. We’ve all had our blunders and mistakes which is why Ramona is so loved by kids. It was truly a pleasure, as a movie reviewer, to look around in the audience of the theater this past weekend and see young girls and boys laughing with delight next to their smiling parents and even young teen girls shedding a few tears, sometimes out of just plain joy.
Selena Gomez plays a convincing Beezus Quimby and her chemistry with Ramona is completely natural. In fact, besides the superb script, and I can’t say enough positive things about it, the casting director(s) should not go unmentioned(Heike Brandstatter and Coreen Mayrs ). This ensemble cast was almost perfect. There was really some kind of magic created in this movie that I can’t remember experiencing in a very long time. It was kind of like a cross between Mary Poppins, and Little House on the Prairie with a dash of humor thrown in, all of it achieved by a harmonious cast with a terrific musical mix by Mark Mothersbaugh.
Again, this was rated “G” for a reason. Not a single cuss word, unless you count the big bad word that Ramona took a long time to final utter, “Guts,” which was the worst word she could think of. There were a couple of scenes where kissing took place 1) which was appropriate for a couple who was to be engaged and 2) with Ramona’s parents which was great for role models. And there was one teen kiss, 3) that was short and sweet which could be a great talking point for parents and their kids as to how to handle teen dating. Finally, Aunt Bea’s relationship with her old beau Hobart (Josh Duhamel) pushed the envelope in the “modern way” when he asked her to come with him to Alaska (living together) but, thankfully, the script had Bea reject his offer on lack of commitment on his part. (Too bad it wasn’t supported by a biblical or moral conviction.)
Finally, there was a “one-tissue” sniffle scene that had to do with a family pet, and I won’t say more than that, but it may be a good talking point to introduce the life cycle for a 5 or 6 year old in case the tears start to flow.
Other than a possible objection to the politically correct placement of the female minister in a wedding scene, there really isn’t a hint of anything, not even inferred. The only thing that could have made it better would have been the mention of God or prayer or church as part of the family dynamic. Here was a great story about a family in financial trouble, due to dad losing his job, (timely for today’s tough recessionary environment), and the emphasis is solely on the love of one another and family that is supposed to pull them all through this difficult time. It worked, but the lost potential was a little saddening. However, that being said, it’s clear that, this too, could be an additional family talking point after the film, and I don’t want this comment to detract from the wonderful positive message of strong family love.
The power of love and a strong family bond was prevalent throughout this movie and powerfully portrayed. The church and wedding scene had two stained-glass crosses that were quietly present in the film, a subtle reminder of a “deeper love” set in the back drop of all of our lives. And unless someone corrects me in the comment sections, I thought I heard a most interesting line in the film when Beezus was complaining to Ramona about the nickname she was given, “Besides, who could ever care about someone with the name of Beezus?” and Ramona answers with a question, “Jezus?”
Maybe my love for the film made me hear that, but it’s true nonetheless. Whatever our name is, and however we may have been mistreated or forgotten about, there is someone who will always care about us, someone who sticks closer than a brother or a sister or the best family in the world, and his name is “Jesus.” The gospel message is that He died for you and your sins, is calling you to a life you cannot provide for yourself, and just like Hobart in the movie, is trying to metaphorically “reel you in” so that you can be totally His. Like Ramona’s father (John Corbett) says to her in one scene, “You’re a Quimby for life!” The Father of lights (James 1:17) wants to make us a part of his eternal family, “for life” only, life with Him—lasts forever.
Now that’s a message that needs to be told. All of this came to my mind when I watched “Ramona and Beezus” which has to say a lot about this movie. Don’t miss this opportunity to connect with your children. Don’t just drop them off at the theater to see this, but take the time to go in and watch it with them. You’ll be glad you did. This one is a “keeper.”
Violence: None / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.