Review: Ramona and Beezus a Wise and Whimsical Good Time

Selena Gomez, Joey King, Ramona and Beezus
Review in a Hurry: Ramona and Beezus is really more about Ramona, but since star Selena Gomez plays Beezus, her marquee mention must have been a requirement from the suits in the corner office. One thing the executives didn't ruin, however, was the movie itself, which is surprisingly wise and whimsical.
The Bigger Picture: Movie marketing is a production in and of itself. The producers wanted to make the first big-screen adaptation of Beverly Cleary's beloved Ramona books, but they needed to sell tickets too. Thus, Ramona likely became Ramona and Beezus, capitalizing on Gomez's tween star power. Beezus is certainly part of the story, but so is Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin), Mrs. Meacham (Sandra Oh, having prim fun) and especially Robert Quimby, Ramona's dad (John Corbett). All these characters orbit Ramona and her misfit adventures, stumbles and triumphs.
Fans of the book may think Ramona and Beezus is based solely on the book Beezus and Ramona, but the movie combines elements from many, if not all, of the Ramona books (further confusing the viewer who may or may not tearfully cling to her childhood memories of those precious books...ahem). Reassuringly, the varied story lines, from Aunt Bea's run-in with an old flame to Robert's employment issues, all elegantly intertwine.
The actors gracefully settle into their roles, and they all really seem like family as they relate to each other. Relative unknown Joey King, as Ramona, is on the right side of precocious, using her adorableness in carefully measured doses. She easily carries the movie.
The marketing of Ramona and Beezus may have the gloss of Hollywood, but the material stays true to the magic of Cleary's books—namely, their ability to expose not just the imperfect moments of middle-class family life, but the pockets of unexpected beauty as well. Whatever its name, Ramona and Beezus just happens to be a good movie.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Director Elizabeth Allen almost loses us with a slow-paced, cliché-ridden beginning. The flick picks up the pace and interest as it gets going, so be patient.