The Movie: Ramona and Beezus
The Players: John Corbett, Bridget Moynahan, Selena Gomez, Joey King, Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Duhamel
The Makers: Elizabeth Allen (director), Laurie Craid, Nick Pustay (writers), Beverly Cleary (novel)
Run time: 103 minutes
Anyone familiar with the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary will instantly have an idea of what this film is about, but here's a brief synopsis anyway!
Ramona is an eight year old girl who is anything but ordinary. She's a talented artist, an imaginative, brave little girl who gets easily frustrated and upset at unfair situations and adults. Her older sister, Beezus (short for Beatrice), is the complete opposite - friendly, mature and perfect. Obviously her mother's favourite (according to Ramona). They live on Klickitat Street in Oregon, a fairly ordinary middle class neighbourhood, with their parents and baby sister Roberta, and next door to Ramona's best friend Howie and his family. Ramona is the kind of girl who takes an idea and runs with it, often trying to mimic the behaviour she sees on television, or pitch in and "help" with disastrous results.
The film adaptation of Beezus and Ramona was actually an amalgamation of all of the Ramona books combined into one neat and tidy narrative. The film begins with some great scenes of basic introduction to the Quimby family for the audience. From the get-go, it's obvious that the writers have kept the script as close to the books as possible, just modernising it slightly. The initial scenes deal with the renovations to the Quimby house and the chaos that it brings to their lives. To Ramona and Howie, it's the most amazing thing that's ever happened and they spend endless hours playing amongst the building, which makes for some cute scenes as the hole in the house provides a nice vehicle for Ramona's fantasies.
Tension heats up though, when Ramona's dad is made redundant from his job. Money woes mean that Dorothy has to go back to work part time and Bob becomes a stay at home dad, allowing him more time with his girls. While the threat of unpaid bills hangs over their heads, the film manages to continue with it's entertaining, light tone. In amongst these tense scences, Ramona goes to school, hangs out with Howie and looks forward to visits from the always fun, always glamorous Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin). The film incorporates many of the hilarious messes Ramona manages to find herself in, which readers of the books will instantly recognise, from her audition for a television commercial with a crown made from burrs, saying a "bad" word, cracking a raw egg over her head, and running away from home with the help of her mother, just to name a few.
I have to say that I really, really enjoyed this film. Obviously my affection for the Ramona books makes me biased, but I think even if you didn't read the books when you were younger this film would appeal to you. It's a gorgeous snapshot of life for an average family, with a daughter whose inquisitive nature makes life chaotic and fun. Her adventures, while full of good intentions, often end up causing her family a lot more hassle than expected. Director Elizabeth Allen doesn't have many feature films under her belt, but she has painted a rich and colourful environment for one of the most loved characters from children's literature, with help from a wonderful cast.
Even if you don't have kids, this film is perfect for a rainy day, and if you do have kids I recommed that you rent this to watch as a family because I guarantee each and every person will find some enjoyment in it.
In a word: Charming