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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Ramona and Beezus

November 24th, 2010

Ramona and Beezus - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack

Ramona and Beezus is based on a series of novels that have been entertaining kids for more than half a century. As a G-rated kids flick, and not an animated one, it didn't have huge expectations placed upon it. But given its reviews, I was still expecting more at the box office. Will it find a bigger audience on the home market? And will it be worth picking up, or just renting?

The Movie

Joey King stars as the titular Ramona, a third-grader who could be described as imaginative and energetic, or simply as a pest, which is how her sisters describes her. Her sister is the other titular character, Beezus, who was named Beatrice, but that name turned out to be too hard for her younger sister to pronounce, hence the new moniker. In the simplest terms, the film follows the exploits of Ramona and the troubles she gets herself, and others around, into.

While Ramona and Beezus is named after the first book in the series, it actually borrows more heavily from two later books, Ramona and Her Father and Ramona Forever. The first book has her father, Robert, losing his job when the company he works for is involved in a merger. Her mother has to work to help keep up with bills, but Ramona has some plans of her own to solve the money problems, which work out about as well as one would expect plans from an 8-year old to go. The second storyline follows her Aunt Bea, who reconnects with Hobart. Hobart is the uncle of Ramona's best friend, Howie, and she takes an instant dislike to him, after he refers to Howie and her as boyfriend and girlfriend. Aunt Bea reacts in a similar fashion to Hobart, to begin with, but that changes.

The two storylines serve as an anchor point for a film that is mostly a series of vignettes involving Ramona. While watching it, I couldn't help but think it would make a better TV show. (In doing research, I found out it was previously a TV show up here in Canada with Sarah Polley in the lead.) This should not be taken as an insult, as the film still has plenty of charm, especially from Joey King. On a side note, I would have liked a little more Beezus in the film and the scenes with Selena Gomez acting with Joey King were some of the most touching.

You will find a lot of reviews, both positive and negative reviews, that call the film inconsequential or insubstantial. In positive reviews, the film is described as having a breezy charm, while in negative reviews the critics complain that it has been made so innocuous that it lacks an edge sharp enough to hold your attention. I think the latter are being a little too cynical and members of the target demographic should really enjoy themselves. In fact, I think more than a few parents will enjoy watching it with their kids.

The Extras

I only have the DVD, so I can't compare technical specs, but I did get a breakdown on exclusives extras on the Blu-ray. Thankfully, there are some, because there are precious few extras on the DVD. Things start with Show and Tell Film School is a seven-minute featurette with the director Elizabeth Allen talking about how to make a movie from storyboards, casting, rehearsals, etc. There are four deleted scenes with a total running time of four minutes and three minutes of outtakes. And finally a featurette about the books the film is based on. Call this version a rental.

The Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack has a few exclusives, including a behind-the-scenes with Joey King. There's additional footage from both Joey King and Selena Gomez, a few more deleted scenes, and an episode of Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life After Film School with director Elizabeth Allen. The list price is only $10 more, but it also comes with the DVD, so that's a fair price to pay. However, on, the combo pack is nearly twice as expensive as the DVD itself.

The Verdict

Ramona and Beezus is the first starring performance by Joey King, but it won't be the last. The film is worth checking out, and aside from some issues with the price, the Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack is the better deal over the DVD. Just see if you can grab it on sale this weekend.

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Filed under: Video Review, Ramona and Beezus