I've started reading the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary to my 4 year old daughter--we read one chapter at naptime each day. Not surprisingly, my daughter has gone Ramona-crazy. Really, how can you not go Ramona-crazy? These were my favorite books when I was little and I treasure the fact that I can now share them with my daughter.
However, I did have to put a bit of a hold on our Ramona books--only because we'd be done with all the books in a couple of weeks if I didn't! (Right now, we're still with Beverly Cleary, though--we're reading Ellen Tebbits.) But, to feed my daughter's Ramona-addiction, I checked out a copy of this movie from the library last week. And I've now seen it about 10 times.
I'll be honest, my first viewing left me a bit angry. This isn't a movie adaptation of a Ramona book, but rather a movie with scenes from all the Ramona books worked into it. I guess I'm just a bit of a purist on this point. I also felt this movie could use a bit of plot trimming. There are just too many storylines--Ramona's relationship on Beezus (more about this in a bit), Beezus's crush on Henry Huggins, Ramona's relationship with Aunt Bea, Aunt Bea's relationship with the neighbor, Ramona's trouble with her teacher, Ramona's relationship with her father, her father losing his job, her parents' relationship with each other....I would rather have had fewer plots and more character exploration.
And I have some pettier problems with this movie. First of all, the title--Beezus and Ramona. The relationship between the two sisters is actually a rather small part of this movie and I found the title misleading. A title such as Ramona Forever, Ramona the Pest, or even just Ramona would have been a better fit.
Also, I was quickly suspicious of this mythical Portland, Oregon where it never rains during the school year. While the scenery looked like Portland, the weather did not. Well, guess what....it was filmed in Vancouver (BC, not WA). Of course, it rains more in Vancouver than in Portland, but whatever. Portland is a very film-friendly town and it was sort of an insult to the PDX-suburban mom that it was not filmed here.
All that being said, this movie started to grow on me each time I watched it. While it isn't a straight adaptation of a Beverly Cleary book, it has the spirit of Ramona, especially in Joey King. Selena Gomez was fine as Beezus but, as I said, she wasn't as central to the movie as the title implies. John Corbett, who is a bit of a hit-and-miss actor, was quite good as Ramona's father. I really enjoyed Ginnifer Goodwin as Aunt Bea--next to Joey King, she seemed to best channel her character from the books. And, if you like Grey's Anatomy, Christina Yang is in full-force here with Sandra Oh playing Ramona's teacher.
As an extra bonus, there is a delightful interview with Beverly Cleary in the extras. I have read many interviews with her, but I've never seen one, so I found this to be quite a treat.
So, would I recommend this? Not to someone who is a purist and gets too hung up about movies not following books closely enough (or are overly concerned with meteorological and geographical accuracy). Yes, I know--I fall into those categories. However, if you can get past the plot (er, plots) and get into the spirit of this movie, you'll find Ramona alive and well!