Ramona and Beezus Elizabeth Allen

Ramona and Beezus Elizabeth Allen
Aside from the Nanny McPhee films, Bridge to Terabithia, The Spiderwick Chronicles and Because of Winn Dixie, I can't think of any well-made, genuinely moving family films in the last decade that weren't animated. I'm tempted to note Dear Frankie, A Shine of Rainbows or certain Harry Potter films, but those are more thematically mature and depressing than heart-warming and family-oriented. For the most part, children's movies have featured talking CGI animals, toilet jokes, cheesy choreographed dances and underdeveloped characters all learning valuable lessons about assimilation and, strangely enough, communism. This is why Ramona and Beezus comes as such a pleasant surprise; it features an imperfect, but caring, family where each member has their own generational struggle exacerbated by a central connecting plight. Family patriarch Robert Quimby (John Corbett) has recently lost his secure, well-paying job to corporate merging and downsizing, which leaves wife Dorothy (Bridget Moynahan) working extra hours at a part-time job to keep their finances afloat. Nine-year-old Ramona (Joey King) senses the conflict, overhearing parental arguments, along with older sister Beezus (Selena Gomez), and decides to bring in some family income of her own. Unfortunately, Ramona lives in a bit of a fantasy world and tends to make a mess out of every well-intentioned effort she makes, which is where the comedy and central thematic vein of social difference and curtailed ambitions stem. When not cracking eggs on her head or accidentally dumping paint all over her neighbour's jeep, she embarrasses herself at commercial auditions and sets the family kitchen on fire. While this constant tomfoolery could easily come off as cloying, featuring close-ups of a cute kid shrugging her shoulders while the parents roll their eyes and pick up a laundry basket, director Elizabeth Allen keeps things very much grounded in reality. Robert and Dorothy try to foster their daughter's creativity and charming difference, but occasionally get frustrated and vent, which is logical given their emotional and financial struggles. Similarly, Ramona's aunt, Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin), acts in a parental capacity to her niece, but doesn't patronize, sharing her genuine fears about jumping back into a relationship with high school flame Hobart (Josh Duhamel). While we never doubt that this family unit cares for each other, their unifying spirit is deepened by an individual sense of identity. Each character has a distinctive voice and perspective on the situation, which in turn makes this Beverly Cleary adaptation far more than most throwaway studio kid films. Included with the DVD is a brief gag reel and chat with Beverly Cleary, along with a kid-friendly conversation about filmmaking with director Allen. (Fox)