Maybe it's because I wasn't expecting to relate to it, or because it really is a sweet and loveable summer kids film, but Ramona and Beezus - based on the beloved books by Beverly Cleary - is one of the biggest surprises on my 100 Days journey. It may lack some of the funky coloring outside the lines that certain critical audiences may demand, but little ones and those who appreciate movies with genuine heart will find a lot to enjoy here.
The young heroine of Ramona and Beezus is a sprightly 9-year-old named Ramona (newcomer Joey King) who means well enough, but often finds herself getting into trouble - ending up literally with egg on her head, or falling through roofs, or setting the kitchen on fire. Her sibling is the more steady and together 15-year-old Beezus (Disney star Selena Gomez), who - like most of the people in her world - is constantly exasperated by the consequences of little sis's actions. Throw in a timely dilemma when even-keeled dad (John Corbett) loses his job, and the situation's rife for dramas big and small.
The great thing about the movie is that it never goes too over-the-top with the comedy (no pets going crazy or shots of folks throwing up...or at least that scene's off camera), and the film and its actors carry through a steady, emotional through line. Corbett and Bridget Moynahan are believable parents who love their kids; Ginnifer Goodwin is your favorite relative as Aunt Bea; Transformers star Josh Duhamel ably turns it down a notch as the rugged nice guy next door; and Sandra Oh makes for an authoritative, never overly grouchy third grade teacher.
This is a bit removed from The Kids Are All Right, an indie film I saw last week, but both create three dimensional families, and are more concerned with things resembling real life than fantastical devices that make us coo, and then forget them two hours later. I may be turning into a softie, but this one had me misty-eyed at the end...plus, any film whose soundtrack can make good use of The Bangles' "Eternal Flame," and throw in some mellow, Jack Johson vibes at the same time, can't be all bad. This one's quite good.