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Ramona and Beezus Is Less Disney Than Hallmark Channel

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Ramona and Beezus
Directed by Elizabeth Allen
20th Century Fox
Opens July 23

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Despite the presence of Mouse House starlet Selena Gomez, Ramona and Beezus is less Disney than Hallmark Channel, a loose adaptation of Beverly Cleary's first novel in her beloved kid-lit series that's wholesome to the point of being dull. Without much in the way of a governing narrative structure, Elizabeth Allen's innocuous film charts Ramona Quimby (Joey King)—her age advanced here from four to a more precocious nine years old—as she suffers a series of embarrassments in front of family, friends, and classmates. King captures Ramona's spunky, oddball spirit, but her imaginative antics, often embellished with ill-fitting fantasy CGI, frequently take a backseat to the inconsequential romantic predicaments of big sis Beezus (Gomez) and aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin). Ramona's story admirably attempts to address issues of adult abandonment, social alienation, and economic instability, the last of these via a timely subplot about Ramona's dad (John Corbett) being downsized that's wrapped up with disingenuous happily-ever-after tidiness. Yet even more than the overriding milquetoast atmosphere, it's this focus on real-world fears that destabilizes Allen's film, as the plethora of pressing adult concerns eventually becomes so pronounced that any trace of comedic verve dissipates, thereby draining the proceedings of the very color that defines its idiosyncratic protagonist.

 
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