Sib­ling story lacks child­hood hu­mor

Austin American-Statesman - - MOVIES & LIFE - By Roger moore

It’s so sen­ti­men­tal and sweet that you can al­most for­give the kids’ com­edy “Ra­mona and Beezus” for not be­ing nearly funny enough.

This adap­ta­tion of Bev­erly Cleary’s 1950s nov­els about “Ra­mona the Pest” and her sis­ter Beatrice (Beezus, to her) em­pha­sizes child­hood con­flicts, con­fu­sion and emo­tions over slap­stick — no great sin. But the movie takes too long to set­tle on that tone and blows more than a few laughs along the way.

Ra­mona (Joey King) shares a room with the sis­ter she’s al­ways called Beezus (Se­lena Gomez). Beezus isn’t shy about mock­ing her sis­ter’s fears — mon­sters un­der the bed, for in­stance. The 9-year-old’s got a vivid imag­i­na­tion. Hang­ing from a swing, she sees a vast canyon be­low. But

she’s un­daunted.

“It’s good to scare your­self once in a while” is her motto.

Contractors build­ing an ad­di­tion to her house are a cause for cel­e­bra­tion, school projects are op­por­tu­ni­ties to show off, prob­lems be­tween mom and dad can be smoothed over if she just takes over the cook­ing.

Peo­pling Ra­mona’s world are her droll, seem­ingly hu­mor­less teacher (San­dra Oh), her par­ents (John Cor­bett and Brid­get Moy­na­han) and her fa­vorite Aunt Bea (Gin­nifer Good­win of “Big Love” and “Walk the Line”). But Aunt Bea’s old beau, played by the ef­fort­lessly charm­ing Josh Duhamel, is back. Ra­mona wor­ries she’ll be “reeled back in, like a bass.”

That pos­si­ble ro­mance takes cen­ter stage for much of the movie, sug­gest­ing that di­rec­tor El­iz­a­beth Allen was a lot more at home with the mushy stuff than with a lit­tle girl’s an­tics.

But like other near-misses in re­cent tod­dler-to-tyke-to-tween cin­ema (“Kit Kit­tredge” comes to mind), this one gamely wres­tles with top­i­cal “grow­ing up” mat­ters — un­em­ploy­ment, lifeal­ter­ing de­ci­sions. Allen gives the movie heart and heft, even if she never quite de­vel­ops a taste or a grasp of the funny

stuff. Rat­ing: G. Run­ning time: hour, 42 min­utes. The­aters: Barton Creek, Cine­mark Cedar Park, Cine­mark Gal­le­ria, Cine­mark Round Rock, Cine­mark South­park Mead­ows, Gate­way, High­land, Starplex, Tin­sel­town Pflugerville.

Alan mark­field

Se­lena Gomez, left, and Joey King play sis­ters Beezus and Ra­mona.

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