Ramona’s 9-year-old life is far from perfect. I mean, everybody loves her teen sis Beezus—with all her straight-A report cards and her gorgeous looks and gushing boyfriend and all. But they hate Ramona.
Well, they don’t really hate her, but to her it sure feels that way sometimes.
It all sorta comes down to Ramona’s tendency to color life outside the lines. At least, that’s what her mom says. Sure, her accident-prone antics can get a little messy at times. But they’re fun. And, for that matter, why should she be penalized because she has a creative vocabulary … and kind of makes up words as she goes? Hey! It’s not her fault she can get distracted by an overactive imagination. Let’s face it, imagining yourself parachuting through fluffy white clouds can turn jumping into a dirt pile into the best day ever!
Ramona understands why her family can get a little irritated with her. Especially since her dad just lost his job and everybody’s a little worried about money right now. But she’s not trying to cause problems. In fact, Ramona is determined to use all of her imaginative skills to help out. She’ll be on her best behavior and come up with some way to earn millions—you just wait and see.
If her ideas fall apart—as usual—well, she’ll just have to try again. Of course, sometimes things get so bad that a girl just can’t help screwing up her face and spitting out the worst word she can think of … guts!
The movie Ramona and Beezus is a well-balanced and intimate-feeling movie that very closely captures and updates the warm spirit of Newberry Award-winner Beverly Cleary’s original Ramona books. The Quimby family deals with struggles that feel very typical to today’s families—such as a child feeling the strain of a parent losing a job—and weathers them with a heartwarming sense of love and support.
So, trying very hard not to spoil all of the fun surprises moviegoers will encounter while watching, allow me to detail just a few of this movie’s many positive features:
Robert Quimby is a seemingly rare example of a modern father role held up in a very positive light in a popular movie. He and Ramona have a great connection. In fact, although Mom is always on her daughter’s side, it’s Dad who seems to really get the inner Ramona. In spite of his own troubles, he’s always at the ready to hug and connect with all his girls. And that connection is evident in the Quimby kids’ reactions, too. On an occasion when Dad is feeling a little doubtful, Ramona reassures him with, “I think you can do anything … don’t you?”
“I hope that when dads see this movie with their kids they just want to be a little closer and want to do things with their kids,” actor John Corbett told the World Entertainment News Network about his role in the film. “So many of my friends, from a far away perspective, I can see that they really don’t have a close relationship with their kids. Time’s kind of ticking and I wonder how much time they think they have left to get to know their kids.”
That’s not to suggest that Mom is emotionally distant in any way. After one rather stressful event, she hugs her girls and asks them, “How did I get so blessed with the two of you?” Mom’s younger sister, Aunt Bea, also tries to boost Ramona’s spirits from time to time, identifying with her younger-sibling woes.
And even though times are tough in the Quimby household, Mom and Dad always try to keep things positive for their children. They pull together, with Mom getting part-time work and Dad picking up the slack at home. And they always present themselves as a loving couple getting through the difficulties together—including a “ewww”-generating kiss in front of the girls.
Indeed, marriage is lifted up as an enriching and desirable choice. After a fellow student warns Ramona that when her dad lost his job, her parents got a divorce, Ramona’s dad assures her that will never be the case with their family. One character looks back on a choice that would have changed his life, potentially for the better, but he clearly states that choosing his family gave him a far greater reward.
In spite of their sibling tugs and pulls, even Ramona and Beezus eventually have a heart-to-heart that proves how much they’re pulling for each other on the inside, even if it doesn’t often show on the outside.
Ramona’s sister really resents being stuck with the nickname Beezus (delivered by a infant Ramona who couldn’t quite grasp the name Beatrice) and fears that it haunt her for the rest of her life. “Who could love a girl with a name like Beezus?” she exclaims. “Uh, Jesus?” Ramona responds.
When the family cat passes away, the girls bury it and Ramona says at the grave, “I hope you do have nine lives and you can wake up as somebody else’s cat.” When she wonders aloud about why a neighbor is digging in the backyard, he jokes, “Maybe this house was built on an ancient burial ground and I’m unlocking an ancient curse.”
A couple marries in a small church with stained-glass crosses on the windows.
Beezus and Aunt Bea wear some formfitting and/or slightly low-cut tops. Beezus quickly kisses her boyfriend.
Ramona’s antics result in a few crash-boom pratfalls. For example, she falls off a jungle gym into a mud puddle. She also breaks through the living room ceiling and dangles through the hole. She smashes an egg on her head, floods a neighbor’s backyard, and causes a jeep to smash into a garage and spill cans of paint everywhere. While helping fix dinner, Ramona accidentally sets a pot and a broom on fire.
A frustrated Ramona yells, “Butt out, Beezus!” a couple of times. And one time she gets so angry she warns her parents that she’s about to say a really bad word. They tell her to go ahead if she must, and she blurts out, “Guts!” “Jerk,” “doofus,” “nutball” and “oh my gosh” also pop up.
Mom and Dad drink a toast with what could be champagne … or apple juice.
Ramona angrily squeezes a whole tube of toothpaste into the sink. Later, she decides to run away from home. (Her mom helps her pack and includes a baggy full of the squeezed-out toothpaste.)
A fly landing in Beezus’ cup causes her to spit her drink out on a friend. Ramona feels ill and throws up in class (offscreen).
Ramona takes Grandma’s favorite china out to sell lemonade on the street corner. After Ramona crashes through the ceiling, some boys kid her with, “We saw your underpants!” At a wedding reception, Ramona’s teacher tells her, “Go on, shake your booty.”
Nothing in life can be perfect. But there are those simple things or special moments that can almost make it there. For instance, I remember one time when my kids rushed in laughing from the backyard after a stretch of spirited play. All ruffled and tussled, beaming from ear to ear. And being the, ahem, totally impartial observer that I am, I looked on and thought, “That’s just perfect.”
Ramona’s world is like that.
She herself would readily admit that she’s a “mess of a girl”—part tomboy, part hopeless imaginer, part rebellious pup, part stumble-footed disaster area. But she’s also instantly ready to give her all for her family. And they, in turn, are ready to love her back just as completely.
As originally penned by beloved and critically acclaimed children’s author Beverly Cleary, or as played by 9-year-old actress Joey King, Ramona is absolutely appealing and the picture of burr-in-your-hair, hug-your-way-through-the-bumps-of-life perfection.
“I hope people leave the theater really embracing and appreciating the things that they have in life,” said Ramona and Beezus director Elizabeth Allen on traileraddict.com. “And those things aren’t money and they’re not houses or great jobs—they’re love and family and support.”
And Ms. Allen’s funny, endearing movie makes that sentiment perfectly clear.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.