Ramona and Beezus
Ramona and Beezus is less Disney than Hallmark Channel, a loose adaptation of Beverly Cleary’s first novel in her beloved kid-lit series that’s wholesome to the point of dull. Without much in the way of a governing narrative structure, Elizabeth Allen’s innocuous film charts Ramona Quimby (Joey King) — her age advanced here from 4 to a more precocious 9 — as she suffers a series of embarrassments in front of family, friends and classmates. King captures Ramona’s spunky, oddball spirit, but her imaginative antics, often embellished with ill-fitting fantasy CGI, frequently take a backseat to the inconsequential romantic predicaments of big sis Beezus (Selena Gomez) and Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin). Ramona’s story admirably attempts to address issues of adult abandonment, social alienation and economic instability, the last of these with a timely subplot about Ramona’s dad (John Corbett), but it’s wrapped up with disingenuous happily-ever-after tidiness. It’s this focus on real-world fears, even more than the overriding milquetoast atmosphere, that destabilizes Allen’s film. The many pressing adult concerns eventually become so pronounced that any trace of comedic verve dissipates, thereby draining the proceedings of the very color defining its idiosyncratic protagonist.