‘Ramona’: Pleasingly old-fashioned fare

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, August 26, 2010 9:36pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

The long literary run of children’s author Beverly Cleary comes to the big screen in “Ramona and Beezus,” a friendly, G-rated tour through an 8-year-old’s universe.

The stuff of Ramona Quimby’s life is not terribly unusual: She has an older sister and a baby sister, parents (played by John Corbett and Bridget Moynahan) who are amused by her and a special aunt (Ginnifer Goodwin) who dotes on her.

The Quimby family lives on Klickitat Lane in Portland, the neighborhood Cleary began writing about in 1950, when the first of her many books came out. Maybe because of the age of the stories, there’s something old-fashioned about this movie, although it is set in the present day.

The issues and concerns of “Ramona and Beezus” would not be entirely out of place in an episode of “Leave It to Beaver”: Dad loses his job; the aunt reunites with an old high-school beau (Josh Duhamel, late of “When in Rome”); rambunctious Ramona deals with the anxiety of the family’s possible move.

Entire sequences are built around such traumas as making a weird face during class-photo day, just because the photographer said, “Say, ‘peas,’” instead of, “Say, ‘cheese,’” at the moment Ramona gets her picture taken.

Ramona’s older sister, Beezus, short for Beatrice, is 15 years old; her modest plotline involves navigating the fact that her best friend might be turning into a boyfriend. He’s played by Hutch Dano, the grandson of an unforgettable Hollywood character actor, Royal Dano.

Beezus is played by Selena Gomez, a tweener TV star from “Wizards of Waverly Place.” But neither she nor anybody else in this movie stands a chance next to Joey King, the kid who plays Ramona — she gets to do all the silly stuff, and easily owns every scene she’s in.

“Ramona and Beezus” doesn’t entirely solve the problem of connecting its old-fashioned storytelling to the year 2010; there’s a time-warp factor here (even the names — Beatrice and Henry and Dorothy and Hobart — speak of a different era).

But if its pleasant scheme is pretty bland, the movie should still provide a nice change of pace for its target audience, who might get tired once in a while of being bombarded by rapid-fire slapstick and product placement.

Instead, they get warm fatherly advice from John Corbett, whose good-guy humor is well-suited to this role. I don’t think he literally wears a cardigan sweater, but Corbett’s connection to the father from “Leave It to Beaver” is otherwise exact.

“Ramona and Beezus” ½

A big-screen adaptation of long-running characters from the children’s books by Beverly Cleary: the world seen through the eyes of 8-year-old Ramona (Joey King), an imaginative girl. It’s a little bland, but the movie’s old-fashioned qualities and pleasant cast make it a nice change of pace from broader kids’ fare.

Rated: G

Showing: Alderwood Mall, Everett, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Meridian, Oak Tree, Woodinville, Cascade Mall

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