Sibling story lacks childhood humor
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
“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.
Selena Gomez, left, and Joey King play sisters Beezus and Ramona.