Ramona and Beezus (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Elizabeth Allen
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 103 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French
Subtitles: SDH. Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: November 9, 2010
Review Date: November 9, 2010
Elizabeth Allen’s Ramona and Beezus based on the classic children’s book series by Beverly Cleary comes to the screen with a certain amount of humor, charm, and fun but without the really precocious personality that the books have. Adapting books to the screen is a difficult proposition under the best of circumstances, and something as offbeat and special as the Ramona series requires the stars and planets to align perfectly in order for that unique spirit to transfer to film. Despite the best efforts of all involved, the film can be entertaining, but it misses the magical mark emerging as merely an okay family comedy-drama with an overuse of slapstick and an inconsistent application of surrealism and a patchy approach to the storytelling.
Nine year old Ramona Quimby (Joey King) knows she’s special, an odd duck among swans, and she’s all right with that. She goes her own way making up her own vocabulary, imagining the world the way she wants to see it, and generally forging her own path unconcerned with what others think about her. Teenaged sister Beezus (Selena Gomez) has an alternately close and combative relationship with her little sister but tends more often than not to understand her stubborn individuality since the entire family seems to be a bit eccentric. But there are problems. Dad (John Corbett) loses his job, and his lack of success finding another one leads to some struggles with wife Dorothy (Bridget Moynahan). Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin) is trying to get over a broken heart from ex-beau Hobart (Josh Duhamel) who seems eager to pursue her again. Through it all, the family works hard to stay in synch with each other despite a series of disappointments and frustrations.
Laurie Craig and Nick Pustay have mined the eight Ramona books for plot points for the movie, but by doing that they’ve given the film a very irregular momentum which director Elizabeth Allen has done little or nothing to smooth out. The movie seems simply a series of sketches featuring either Ramona or Beezus in situations ranging from embarrassing to comical but not really forming a unified whole. The film works its charm best in the flights of fantasy when Ramona’s everyday activities (on the playground, jumping on her bed) get transformed into Walter Mitty-like surreal episodes, but despite their effectiveness, there are only a few of these lyrical fantasy moments. We get many more sequences where people are doing spit takes with lemonade or strained peas and gooey messes abound with eggs, paint, and water. Then the movie begins resembling those lame Disney family comedies from the 1970s with their overriding slapstick featuring families that don’t resemble anyone or anything on this planet. The screenwriters also manage to work in two minor romantic subplots: Beezus and her longtime boy pal Henry (Hutch Dano) and Bea and former love Hobart, but these, too, seem more like unnecessary side trips rather than being really intrinsic to the basic narrative.
Joey King can be a charmer as Ramona though she’s much more interesting when she’s being confrontational and intractable in her eccentricity than in later scenes when she loses heart and seems deflated. Selena Gomez seems a bit too sophisticated to be the teenaged older sister in this family, but she and Joey work well together. John Corbett is the loving, docile father everyone would want while Ginnifer Goodwin as Aunt Bea has terrific chemistry with Joey King, and one wishes more scenes could have been concocted for the both of them. Josh Duhamel puts forth a twinkly personality as the man that got away from Aunt Bea, and Sandra Oh’s wonderfully droll persona fits perfectly into the mix as Ramona’s deadpan teacher Mrs. Meacham. Sierra McCormick hit all the right notes as the snooty, pampered Susan, Ramona’s polar opposite. More should have been done with Jason Spevack who’s excellent as Ramona’s playmate Howie.
The Panavision theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 is replicated to perfection in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The picture is wonderfully colorful with hues that are nicely saturated without their being overdone, but sharpness isn’t all one would wish for the image. There are scenes that seem unnaturally soft and undefined though most of the movie certainly features above average clarity and detail. Flesh tones are quite natural. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix makes Mark Mothersbaugh’s music the primary focus of the surround channels though there certainly are ambient sounds which do get placed around the soundstage on occasion but not always consistently. It’s still a subdued rather than an immersive sound design. Dialogue is nicely recorded and resides firmly in the center channel.
There are seven deleted scenes which can be watched individually or in one 6-minute grouping. They’re in 1080p.
The film’s gag reel runs 3 minutes in 1080p.
“Show & Tell Film School” features director Elizabeth Allen talking about what it takes to get a film made including her own methods for using selected storyboarding, animatics for the most intricate action scenes, proper casting, and a willingness to take part in what the actors must face. This 7-minute featurette is presented in 1080i.
“My Ramona” features a brief 4 ¼-minute interview with original author Beverly Cleary about how Ramona began as a minor character and kept growing in importance until she became the star of her own books. It’s in 1080p.
“A Day in the Life of Joey King” finds the young actress taking the viewer on a tour of a typical day on the set with her in this 1080p featurette that runs 5 minutes.
We are treated to two Selena and Joey audition footage scenes with the two actresses performing moments that were later filmed for the movie. This runs 2 minutes in 1080i.
“Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life After Film School” is another in the series of interviews with film professionals featured on the cable channel. Here director Elizabeth Allen is questioned for 22 minutes by three film school students who ask about her background, her previous film and TV work, and her methodology. It’s in 480i.
The film’s theatrical trailer runs for 1 ¾ minutes in 1080p.
The BD-Live feature on-line is a repeat of the “Show & Tell Film School” featurette discussed above.
The disc also offers 1080p trailers for Rio, Marley & Me: The Terrible 2’s, Marmaduke, Tooth Fairy, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Percy Jackson & the Olympians.
The second disc in the set is a DVD copy of the movie.
The third disc in the set is the digital copy of the movie with enclosed instructions for installation on Mac and PC devices.
3.5/5 (not an average)
As family comedies go, Ramona and Beezus is above average in laughs and charm, but it’s far from the eccentric examination of a gloriously misfit childhood that one expected from the book series. A good video and audio rendering along with some interesting bonus features makes this a package many families, especially those with preteen girls, might consider renting.