It’s very rare that modern family films leave me feeling overwhelmed with emotions, but oddly enough this adaptation of the Walden media book managed to accomplish that very task by being a sweet family dramedy that doesn’t talk down to its audience. Sure, it’s whimsical and goofy and occasionally wholesome, but deep down there is a strong undercurrent of sadness and grief present among every character, all of whom are facing change in their lives that may decide who they become in the next few years and beyond. “Ramona and Beezus” is a remarkable dramedy about a small girl named Ramona Quimby a child large heart and an even larger imagination who uses her creativity and individuality to not only disconnect her from her world but cope with the massive and potentially traumatizing life altering changes happening around her.
Her favorite aunt Bea is a ditzy lovelorn woman obsessed with her high school boyfriend who just happens to be in town, her big sister Beezus is growing up, moving out of their room and falling for her long time best friend (played by the likable Hutch Dano), her dad just lost his high paying job and now her parents are arguing day in and day out with the rising tensions between them tearing them apart. Beyond that Ramona’s father is ill-prepared to deal with girls, so it’s beginning to affect her school life. While the story can occasionally be eye roll inducing in its light hearted tone (Ramona is so adorable every adult in ear shot breaks in to hysterical laughter for some reason), “Ramona and Beezus” is thankfully very entertaining and even heartbreaking in some moments.
Ramona and her sister’s world is crumbling around her and they’re desperately trying to figure out how to cope with these events that could change their entire outlook on life. Ramona is an imaginative character who is struggling to keep her optimism and innocence alive in a world of adults who are facing some incredibly difficult decisions and are trying their best to shield her from the pain. Joey King is a bonafide scene stealer as the rebellious Ramona who clings to her artistic outlook as a way of making herself feel unique and not so average and King delivers this role with finesse and a surefire charm that will really help her connect with the young audiences.
Selena Gomez is also quite good as Ramona’s big sister Beezus who is dealing with puberty and a potential love in her life while also trying to figure out how to best deal with Ramona who is more and more resistant as life becomes much more painful. Director Elizabeth Allen wisely surrounds the two girls with a strong supporting cast with people like Sandra Oh inspiring giggles as Ramona’s stressed teacher, Ginnifer Goodwin is sweet as aunt Bea, Bridget Moynahan and John Corbett are great as Ramona’s well meaning parents, and Josh Duhamel is hilarious as the unkempt and good humored hunky Hobart who has to display an immense amount of patience around Ramona in an attempt to woo back her aunt Bea, in a sweet sub-plot.
Like the best family films, “Ramona and Beezus” is about growing up, leaving childish things behind, and accepting change no matter how hard it may be for all of us, and in the end the best thing we can do is try to be the best person we can in the face of a new life that may seem scary but will benefit us. Change is tough, and worst of all it’s scary, and “Ramona and Beezus” is a fantastic family dramedy about a series of characters experiencing major changes in their lives including a nine year old named Ramona who has to grow up and accept her life may never be the same again, for better or for worse. I highly suggest this to anyone looking for a valuable lesson with some wholesome fun.