Ramona and Beezus -- Film Review

"Ramona and Beezus"


Ramona Quimby, author Beverly Cleary's little girl with the supersized imagination, takes the leap to the big screen courtesy of the cheerfully innocuous if generically uninspired "Ramona and Beezus."

While its cast -- including newcomer Joey King as Ramona and Selena Gomez as her older sister Beezus -- delivers uniformly breezy performances, most everything else about Ramona's move to the multiplex feels unremarkable.

The only truly surprising aspect here is the fact that "Ramona and Beezus" is a Fox theatrical release even though it could easily be mistaken for Disney Channel fare.

It's possible that resident Disney personality Gomez could bring in her tween and pre-tween audience, but it's more likely that "R&B" will be a better fit for home viewing.

It isn't the first time the Ramona books have been optioned for the screen. They served as the basis of a 10-episode 1988 Canadian TV series starring a 9-year-old Sarah Polley.

That also happens to be Ramona's age in the script by Laurie Craig ("Ella Enchanted") and Nick Pustay, which finds her magical world turned upside down when her suddenly unemployed dad (John Corbett) eyes a new job that means moving away from her beloved Portland, Ore., neighborhood.

Determined to keep things as they are, the accident-prone third-grader comes up with assorted moneymaking schemes that have a habit of not working out as planned, often to the embarrassment of Beezus (aka Beatrice) and their Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin).

Having directed the 2006 tween comic fantasy "Aquamarine," Elizabeth Allen would seem to have been a logical candidate for the job at hand, but that picture's buoyant spark isn't so readily apparent here.

Even sporadic CGI-injected flights of fancy, intended to bring Ramona's vivid daydreams to life, tend to fall self-consciously (not to mention budget-consciously) flat.

Allen fares better with her cast, establishing a credible sibling dynamic between newcomer King and Gomez, while the appealing grown-ups -- also including Bridget Moynahan, Josh Duhamel and Sandra Oh -- each effectively resists the temptation to go broad.

Behind the scenes, Vancouver subs for Ramona's bright stomping grounds, with sunny assists from cinematographer John Bailey and production designer Brent Thomas, though Mark Mothersbaugh's forcefully chipper score could use an occasional time-out.

Opens: Friday, July 23 (20th Century Fox)
Production companies: Fox 2000 Pictures, Walden Media
Cast: Joey King, Selena Gomez, John Corbett, Bridget Moynahan, Ginnifer Goodwin
Director: Elizabeth Allen
Screenwriters: Laurie Craig, Nick Pustay
Producers: Denise Di Novi, Alison Greenspan
Director of photography: John Bailey
Production designer: Brent Thomas
Music: Mark Mothersbaugh
Costume designer: Patricia Hargreaves
Editor: Jane Moran
Rating: G, 104 minutes
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