Who's In It: Selena Gomez, Joey King, John Corbett, Bridget Moynahan, Gennifer Goodwin, Josh Duhamel, Jason Spevack, Sandra Oh, Hutch Dano
The Basics: Nine-year-old middle child Ramona Quimby (Joey King) is precocious, unique, and wildly imaginative. She's also a pest, at least to her older teenage sister, Beezus (Selena Gomez), whose life always gets turned upside down by Ramona's hyperactive antics. When Ramona and Beezus's parents (John Corbett and Bridget Moynihan) start fraying at the seams during difficult financial times, Ramona springs into action trying to help her family. Can one impish little girl save the day, bring people together, and win over your cold, cynical heart over the course of one feel good family-friendly flick?
What's The Deal: The answer to the above question, of course, is yes -- even if Ramona and Beezus takes a bit too long to hit its sentimental stride. Director Elizabeth Allen takes her time setting the scenario, but once characters and familial dynamics have been established, her likeable cast breathes sweet-natured life into Beverly Cleary's beloved book adaptation. At the center of it all is newcomer Joey King, a blue-eyed dynamo who brings Ramona Quimby vividly to life and steals the show from her veteran co-stars, flitting deftly from scene to scene and into surrealist flights of fancy with more natural charisma than a roomful of Disney/Nickelodeon tween stars. In truth, the film is more about Ramona than Beezus, focusing primarily on its younger heroine and her misunderstood shenanigans (it more closely follows the novel Ramona Forever than Ramona and Beezus) -- but once you see it, you'll fall so deeply in love with Joey King that you'll only want more Ramona in your life.
Grown-Up Stuff That Isn't Sugarcoated: Forget monsters in the bedroom, embarrassing yourself in front of your class, and getting in trouble for spilling paint on the neighbor's car (those normal kid ordeals pop up, too). Bills. Foreclosure. Job loss. Death. Divorce. Kitchen fires. Saying goodbye to loved ones. The most terrifying things in Ramona and Beezus are, as in reality, drawn from the real-life things that happen to families and threaten to unsettle a child's sense of security. In that sense, Ramona and Beezus is similar to Toy Story 3 but makes it easier to explain those difficult subjects to your kids.
What's In It For The Parents: Fathers get a sweet subplot in which Ramona's dad (John Corbett, the coolest of cool movie dads) turns unemployment into quality time with his kids and learns a life lesson of his own. Moms get introduced to Josh Duhamel's hunky next door neighbor crotch-first as he rolls out on his back from underneath a car to say hello. Everyone gets a grand old happy wedding finale that ends it all on an upbeat note.