DVD Release Date:  November 9, 2010
Theatrical Release Date:  July 23, 2010
Rating:  G

Genre:  Family, Comedy, Adaptation
Run Time:  104 min.
Director:  Elizabeth Allen
Actors:  Joey King, Selena Gomez, John Corbett, Bridget Moynahan, Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Duhamel, Sandra Oh, Hutch Dano

Ramona and Beezus, the latest adaptation from Walden Media of a beloved series of children's books, is unobjectionable G-rated family entertainment. It's not very cinematic, nor is it memorably performed by its lead actresses, but a charming performance by John Corbett as the girls' father helps the film immensely.

Nine-year-old Ramona Quimby (Joey King) lives in the shadow of big sister Beatrice, aka Beezus (Selena Gomez). At school, Ramona's playground antics and argumentative nature test the patience of her teacher (Sandra Oh). At home, her parents (John Corbett and Bridget Moynahan) bear with Ramona's childish disobedience, as when she hides her report card in the freezer and squeezes an entire tube of toothpaste into the sink. When upset, Ramona threatens to use a bad word, yet the worst she can come up with is "guts."

Beezus isn't making Ramona's life any easier. In addition to viewing Ramona as a pest, Beezus frets about a boy, Henry Huggins (Hutch Dano), and about the family's financial health after dad loses his job.

That element of the story helps Ramona and Beezus strike a nice balance between kid-friendly antics and serious social relevance, as the father's experience of corporate downsizing jeopardizes the family's stability. While dad uses the layoff to take a break and rethink his career track, he argues with his wife over the prospect of defaulting on the mortgage and losing the house. Overhearing the squabbles, Ramona imagines the family home being wrecked and literally carried away—one of the scarier flights of fancy pictured by director Elizabeth Allen, who sporadically visualizes Ramona's daydreams.

Those scenes constitute the only special effects in Ramona and Beezus, and while the film's more traditional approach to storytelling is a breath of fresh air among the FX-driven summer blockbusters, it goes too far in the opposite direction, toward blandness.

However, the heart of Ramona and Beezus is not in its visuals but in its father-daughter relationship. At its best, Ramona and Beezus taps into the fears children associate with the loss of things that, to their minds, seem permanent but aren't: a father's job and the family home. Corbett, whom older audience members might remember from My Big Fat Greek Wedding or the Sex in the City franchise, anchors the film with a sensitive, humorous performance as the head of the family. His cheerful heart in the midst of a career crisis is good medicine for those around him (Proverbs 17:22).

The ongoing "jobless recovery" in this country gives the father's storyline a connection to the headlines without turning the film into a social treatise. Instead, writers Laurie Craig and Nick Pustay use the fear of losing the family home as a basis for Ramona's moneymaking schemes that she believes will restore the family's fiscal health. Needless to say, Ramona's plans don't work out as she envisions. But fear not: A happy ending is never seriously in jeopardy.