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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Ramona and Beezus

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Though ostensibly set in a more-or-less contemporary suburb of Portland, Ore., the gentle, winning comedy "Ramona and Beezus" (Fox) occupies a nostalgia-tinted world so idyllic that you half expect one of the characters to announce, somewhere along the line, that a lovely family called the Cleavers just moved in next door.

Traditional values and close-knit family relationships reign in director Elizabeth Allen's squeaky-clean adaptation of Beverly Cleary's best-selling series of children's books, the first of them published—viewers will hardly be surprised to learn—more than 50 years ago.

So when irrepressible 9-year-old Ramona Quimby (Joey King), on whom the slightly static story centers, warns her parents, Robert (John Corbett) and Dorothy (Bridget Moynahan), at the dinner table that she has to say a terrible swearword to vent her numerous frustrations with life, the term she eventually produces is so mild, it makes Wally and the Beaver's oft-repeated "Gee whiz!" sound blue.

While good-hearted and imaginative, Ramona is also accident-prone and her minor misadventures, which leave her feeling misunderstood, tend to antagonize her straight-teeth-and-straight-A's teen sister, Beezus (Selena Gomez). Indeed, much to her annoyance, senior sis has been burdened with that ungainly moniker as the result of Ramona's childhood inability to pronounce her real name, Beatrice.

Besides their tiffs, the only source of worry or conflict on the girls' native Klickitat Street—a real-life address that Cleary's tales have made iconic—arises from Dad's loss of his accounting job. (Add to that the aggravating factor that the family has just embarked on an expansion of their home, a project they might not have the funds to finish, and this aspect of Laurie Craig and Nick Pustay's script begins to feel very much of the moment.)

Unemployment leads to mild marital tensions, and Dad finds himself spending a night on the couch. But, like the prospect of the bank "taking the house"—an expression Ramona overhears and interprets with a comic extreme of literalism—the specter of divorce seems quite distant along this boulevard of unbroken dreams.

Lightening the mood is the swiftly rekindling romance between Ramona's favorite aunt—and Beezus' namesake—Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin) and her high school true love Hobart (Josh Duhamel). Ever the ramblin' man, Hobart is off to Alaska and floats the idea of Bea coming with him. But anyone who fears she might do so before exchanging marriage vows has clearly not been paying attention.

Beezus, too, has an affair of the heart under way, having fallen for childhood friend Henry Huggins (Hutch Dano, not Rex Harrison). In keeping with the delightfully innocent atmosphere of la rue Klickitat, it takes this bashful young pair the better part of 90 minutes to work their way up to a first kiss.

Though some fussy adults with short attention spans may object that nothing very momentous happens as "Ramona and Beezus" unspools, as should be obvious by now, what does take place transpires in the nicest possible way.

So just you wait, Henry Huggins, just you wait.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I—general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G—general audiences. All ages admitted.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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