(director: Elizabeth Allen; screenwriters: Laurie Craig/Nick Pustay/based on the novels by Beverly Cleary; cinematographer: John Bailey; editor: Jane Moran; music: Mark Mothersbaugh; cast: Joey King (Ramona Quimby), Selena Gomez (Beezus Quimby), John Corbett (Robert Quimby), Bridget Moynahan (Dorothy Quimby), Ginnifer Goodwin (Aunt Bea), Josh Duhamel (Hobart Kemp), Hutch Dano (Henry Huggins), Sandra Oh (Mrs. Meacham), Jason Spevack (Howie Kemp), Janet Wright (Granny Kemp); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: G; producers: Denise Di Novi/Alison Greenspan; Fox 2000 Pictures and Walden Media; 2010)

A pleasant 1950’s old-fashioned family drama that’s gentle and adorable.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Oregon-born author, the former children’s librarian, Beverly Cleary, wrote in the 1950s about a suburban Portland family and their mild adventures raising three girls. The most popular of the girls and the one made the film’s star turned out to be nine-year-old schoolgirl Ramona Quimby’s (Joey King), whose penchant for messing up everything she touches makes things lively. Cleary’s novels are scripted with a genial good humor by Laurie Craig and Nick Pustay. Director Elizabeth Allen (“Aquamarine”) keeps it as a pleasant 1950’s old-fashioned family drama that’s gentle and adorable, perfectly fitting it to Cleary’s modest children’s literature aimed for girls. Cleary has a good handle on everyday childhood experiences for those still innocent girls who get flustered with growing pains; the setting is altered to fit modern times but in an unobtrusive way.

Ramona Quimby lives in a comfortable suburban setting with her responsible and attractive mismatched older sister Beezus (Selena Gomez) and her baby sister Roberta, and with her kind-hearted company vice president number cruncher dad (John Corbett) and caring mom (Bridget Moynahan). The imaginative Ramona is teased in school by her classmates for always doing something wrong even though she tries to be good. Her strict third-grade teacher (Sandra Oh) tries to bring out the best in the freespirited Ramona, but feels challenged that her fidgety pupil is so impish.

Big sis is constantly irritated with her hyperactive little sis’s antics, as Beezus’ goal in life is to win the heart of nice-guy high school classmate Henry Huggins (Hutch Dano). Ramona’s Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a house guest, who mentors the pint-sized energetic girl and acts confused whether or not to get back together with her old flame Hobart (Josh Duhamel). Hobart’s granny lives next door to the Quimbys and the writer visits her so he can win back Bea before heading to Alaska for his work assignment.

The arc of the film centers around dad losing his job to downsizing and reflecting that he always wanted to be an artist but because of the children, whom he loves dearly, took a good paying job to pay the bills. While the bread winner is out of work, mom returns to work as a secretary in a doctor’s office and the optimistic dad stays home to care for the kids and go on interviews. Meanwhile several incidents take place such as Ramona defacing Hobart’s Jeep with an unwanted weirdly colored paint job while washing it, on picture day at school Ramona messes up her hair with a softboiled egg and has a sourpuss expression for the class photo, a sprinkler water fight between neighbors cools things down over the on-again/off-again romance between Bea and Hobart, and Ramona is saddened that she has to bury the aged pet cat who died.

Theinnocuous film, seeming like a Dennis the Menace television episode, is not bad family fare, and the performance by newcomer Joey King as the rambunctious but lovable girl with the irresistible grin is … well, irresistible. It stands out from most of the other recent children’s pictures because the child star never becomes obnoxious and the family is truly a nurturing and wholesome one. I think this Fox movie, with thankfully no vampires, is a keeperthat the Disney crowd should appreciate and probably wish they made, and will prove to be entertaining to a wide audience looking for innocent fun.

Ramona and Beezus