THE INTERNET hath no fury like a nostalgic book lover convinced the legacy of her childhood is being crapped on. When the trailer for Ramona and Beezus hit the internet a few months ago, the response was predictably dolorous. "BEEZUS IS A SEX KITTEN AND RAMONA IS A PINT-SIZED MANIC-PIXIE DREAM GIRL," moaned Jezebel. Childhood=crapped on again.
But chillax, ladies. Ramona and Beezus is a relatively sensible update of Beverly Cleary's beloved series. Yes, Beezus is played by Selena Gomez, a glowing teen who will never know flop sweat—unlike the greasy, pimply Beezus of the books who yearns for adulthood, Gomez's career goals no doubt include hugging the liminal line between teen and grownup for as long as possible. But the likable young actress Joey King commands the bulk of screen time here—she's plausibly scrappy and spirited as Ramona, as she frets about her family's finances and her inability to make it through a school day without humiliating herself in front of her peers.
Ramona and Beezus is canny in its targeted appeal to a broad audience cross-section. For the tweeners, Beezus gets a smushy romantic subplot. (Remember Henry Huggins? Alas, Ribsy is nowhere to be seen.) Ramona's klutziness provides some dumb laughs for the kids. As Uncle Hobart, Josh Duhamel gets sprayed with a garden hose. (That was for me, I think.) Parents who gave up their dreams in order to have children they can't really afford? Yep, you're covered too.
Though the movie was shot in Vancouver, BC, the filmmakers take pains to establish the Portland setting—a Klickitat Street sign is duly lingered over, and even TriMet makes a cameo. Sure, it's easy to imagine a funnier, less saccharine adaptation of Cleary's books—but things could've gone way worse than this cute, breezy, ultimately harmless remake.