AWFJ Women On Film – “Ramona and Beezus” – Review by Susan Granger

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For 60 years, six-to-12 year-old children have enjoyed books by Beverly Cleary, so it’s

actually quite surprising that it’s taken this long to bring any of them to the big screen.

Her ordinary, thoroughly believable characters dwell on Klickitat Street in Portland,

Oregon, which is a real street, not far from her childhood home.

Mischievous, imaginative nine year-old Ramona Quimby (Joey King) lives with

her sedate, strait-laced, often exasperated 15 year-old sister Beatrice (Disney Channel

star Selena Gomez), whom she’s nicknamed Beezus, and toddler sister Roberta (twins

Aila & Zanti McCubbing). They’re watched over by loving parents, Dorothy (Bridget

Moynahan) and Robert (John Corbett), along with funky Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin)

and her old flame, Hobart (Josh Duhamel). Ramona’s guided by her sensible third-grade

teacher, Mrs. Meacham (Sandra Oh), and observes ‘first love’ between Beezus and Henry

Huggins (Hutch Dano). It’s a tumultuous time in the Quimby household – and when

Ramona gets her own room, she finds a grate through which she overhears her parents

talking about the financial insecurity that the family faces.

Adapted by Laurie Craig (“Ella Enchanted”) and Nick Pustay, who combined episodes

from all eight Ramona books, and directed by Elizabeth Allen (“Aquamarine”), it tackles

some serious themes for tweens, like Robert’s losing his job, Dorothy’s working overtime

and how the family is stressed, fearing that they may have to move away. That’s unusual

in a pre-teen movie but certainly appropriate to the current recession, particularly as

Ramona sees her father struggling with his identity.

Filmed in Vancouver, there’s an unmistakable Pacific Northwest atmosphere. Yet,

it plays like a sitcom, better suited to the small screen than the large; that’s particularly

evident in the heroine’s periodic, low-budget CGI daydreams. Trivia note: back in 1988,

Ramona came to life in a short-lived Canadian TV series, starring a then-nine-year-old

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Ramona and Beezus” is a generic, gingerly

gentle 5. But exasperating, endearing Ramona and her family should enjoy a long and

prosperous life ahead on the DVD shelf.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.