Ramona and Beezus: The Movie

The idea of making a movie about the brave, pesty, lovable, and ultimately Everygirl-ish Ramona Quimby is not as fear-inducing as the idea of making a movie about Holden Caulfield. Although Ramona is a precious part of many childhoods, she isn’t as important a piece of literary history as the catcher in the rye. She is a glowing example of the kind of child Holden would have liked to catch, though, and that’s why her portrayal in any form apart from Beverly Cleary’s books matters.

The new film Ramona and Beezus gets a thumbs-up from me because it honors what I consider the most important themes of the Ramona book series:

  • Ramona is a unique person with a complement of emotions—not a generic “kid” who can be labeled or understood without effort.
  • Ramona’ s family lives the all-American struggle—worrying about money, about raising their children well, and about balancing the sometimes opposite tasks of fitting into society and meeting their children’s needs.
  • Ramona continually provides examples of how children are never “bad.” The things she does that wind up causing trouble for her or for others come about through her good intentions, her curiosity, or her imagination. As she herself states, the best way to handle her is to love her.

These points actually come across in the movie, and for that I applaud it. It resisted the “Hollywood” urge to make the Quimby home elegant, or to make Beezus’s wardrobe cutting edge, or to make Ramona’s adventures into loud, ridiculous jokes. The acting is good, and the characters come across as real people. The only major fault I found with the experience of watching Ramona and Beezus was that I couldn’t turn off the checklist in my head that was tallying up the book incidents as they occurred.

  • “There’s the toothpaste in the sink,” went my brain.
  • “There’s Willa Jean.”
  • “There’s Henry Huggins.”
  • “Ramona just said ‘guts.'”
  • “Mr. Quimby is drawing.”
  • “His drawings look like those of Alan Tiegreen, who did a set of Ramona book covers.”
  • “Picky-Picky died.” (The film is so relentlessly G-rated, it doesn’t even show us the image of a dead cat.)
  • “Oh, wow. Aunt Bea. I forgot about her.”
  • “Ramona just pulled Susan’s boing-boing curls.”
  • “There’s the street sign: Klickitat Street. Yep, that’s right.”

Checking-off the beloved Ramona moments wasn’t overly distracting or annoying; it just took away from the enjoyment of the film as a totally new experience. But would I have wanted the screenwriters to come up with new Ramona moments? No.

For children who haven’t yet discovered the Ramona books, the film will be new. And it’s good enough, I think, to make them want to seek out Ramona in the library or at the local Barnes and Noble.  If Ramona and Beezus can accomplish that, it’s worth four stars.

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6 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Shirley said,

    Thanks for the review! I wish I could go back and change time (not something I often wish for…)

    I went to the movies with my 12yo goddaughter and her mom Saturday night. My grown up friend made it clear she didn’t want to see R&B. We ended up seeing Dinner for Schmucks which was poorly rated as PG-13. (The movie wasn’t bad, but there were many, many, many references to sex. And, you know, as long as they are showing naked body parts, I guess it gets a PG-13. Grrr….)

    My goddaughter left feeling dissatisfied. The elements of the movie that were confusing/gross definitely outweighed the elements that she enjoyed. I think she would have liked R&B more!

  2. 3

    Rana said,

    My daughter and I are going to have a girly day next week. I was trying to figure out what to do. I think we will go see Ramona. Thanks for your review.

  3. 5

    Cristina said,

    Did they combine books? Because I thought the incident with Susan’s curls happened in an earlier book than Picky-Picky’s death. (Ack! Now I’m going to have to go read them all again!)

    Great review! Thanks for giving your thoughts about it.
    Peace and Laughter!

    • 6

      sgaissert said,

      Oh, they definitely combined books! Stephanie liked that a lot. MeI didn’t hate it, but I wish they could have been certain of a film series and started with the first book. : )


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