She thinks of herself as always messing up and always getting into trouble, but really, she’s just a good-hearted, playful kid with a great imagination and an independent streak — traits that will serve her well in life, but maybe not so much in elementary school. Fortunately for her sense of well-being, she has a great home life: doting Dad (John Corbett), patient Mom (Bridget Moynahan), and roommate-big sis Beezus (Selena Gomez).
Beezus got her name from when Ramona was little and couldn’t pronounce “Beatrice,” and it stuck. Beezus is just starting to realize she’s a normal teenager who’s interested in the boy down the street who was always just a friend. But don’t worry, the most that will ever happen is that hesitant, wondrous, trembling first kiss.
Ramona also has a friend from down the street who happens to be a boy, but they just walk to school together every day. Sometimes she has to watch her baby sister, Rebecca, and sometimes she tries to help with dinner (usually disastrously), but mostly she just plays inventively. When she’s on the jungle gym at school, she imagines herself on a rickety swing bridge, hanging over a great precipice.
Her Dad loses his job, and Mom has to go back to work, but as consolation her Dad is now available to draw with her on her big mural project, and being artistically creative is something they both enjoy doing together. Another great person in her life is Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin), who climbs the back yard tree with her and generally impresses on her that she’s special, even though she’s the middle child. Aunt Bea has become distracted with the return of her old high school boyfriend from down the street, who’s suddenly re-appeared in the neighborhood.
Though the family has conflict, there are no invectives hurled across the dinner table, and nobody’s really looking to hurt, insult, or injure the others. We find ourselves rooting for them because they are really trying to be a good family to each other. Sure, it runs the danger of being too sticky-syrupy-sweet, but they can throw in some drama, too, like the family dog dying, and the indignity of not being able to afford things that others have, and watching other prospective buyers troop through the living room, inspecting your stuff like it’s only fit for secondhand garage sales. Yes, Mom and Dad even argue, at times, mostly about money, which feels pretty realistic. But they never give up on each other. And therein lies the bedrock relational assurances that pluck the heartstrings of even the most cynical and jaded critic.
This one is truly recommended for the whole family. It’s awkward and self-conscious in places. Sometimes it feels as hokey as an updated version of “Leave It To Beaver.” But it overcomes all that with a lot of heart, and a little sense of humor.
RONALD P. SALFEN is pastor, Grace Church, Greenville, Texas.