Beezus and Ramona was my favourite book when I was little. I read it with my mom. Then I read the rest of the series, all 7 of them. I haven’t revisited these beloved books in years but, remembering them as a cornerstone of my childhood, I couldn’t have been more excited (and apprehensive) when I heard they were making a movie.
But as more and more details about the film reached my ears, my reservations eased. The title (Ramona and Beezus, the reverse of the original book), which annoyed me at first, made sense considering the film would be an amalgamation of all 8 books not just an adaptation of the first one. I was greatly reassured when I heard the sweet story that Beverly Cleary had agreed to sell the rights after all these years only after reading the producer’s 4th grade book report on Ramona. But it wasn’t until casting began that I knew I would like Ramona and Beezus.
The producers went with a relative unknown for Ramona, the delightful Joey King who would make her mark in the iconic role instead of bringing kid star pedigree to it. The tricky role of Beezus (the sympathetic character as seen through the eyes of her little sister could have looked like a bully) went to Selena Gomez, easily the most endearing of all the Disney Channel princesses, who was beautiful in the role. In a perfect casting stroke of genius, they chose my beloved John Corbett to play Mr. Quimby. Corbett, always charming, always warm, usually goofy, has a wonderful fatherly presence and his 6’4” frame and baby face give him the perfect balance to simultaneously play hero to his daughters and regular guy trying to get by. The small but fun role of Ramona’s teacher went to the always wonderful Sandra Oh and dreamy/fun Tad Hamilton..err… Josh Duhamel would play Hobart. But the piece de resistance would be Aunt Bea. Without the perfect actress to capture Ramona’s grownup counterpart, the film just wouldn’t be right. But these producers knew what they were doing and made the most perfect of all perfect choices: Ginnifer Goodwin. I adore Ginnifer Goodwin, I’ve loved everything I’ve ever seen her play since the day she first captured my heart as the self conscious cellist in Mona Lisa Smile right through to her standout work on Big Love. And as fun-loving, hopeless romantic Aunt Bea she brought the perfect cuddly warmth and kiddie spirit.
And that PERFECT cast was given some great stories to play. With highlights chosen from all the books, Ramona and her Father took centre stage (being the most resonant in today’s economy and all) with the love story being borrowed from Ramona Forever. Writers Laurie Craig and Nick Pustay chose all the right stuff from each of the books (almost all of them were represented somehow), making for a beautifully paced, poignant and timely character story.
I laughed the whole way time at Ramona’s earnest audacity, Mr. Quimby’s sweet antics and Beezus’ silly adolescent worries. And from the sisters’ heart-to-heart straight through to the bittersweet ending, I cried my eyes out- happy, nostalgic tears, not at all unlike Toy Story 3 tears. It was moving, sweet and the first time something I loved on paper as a kid has ever been made even better by the big screen.