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'Ramona and Beezus' sister act wears thin

A particularly mirthless, pointless and endless adaptation of the popular Beverly Cleary book series, "Ramona and Beezus" operates on the principle that children will watch anything that features other children and inflicts a sufficient amount of pain on adults. If that were so, "R&B" would be the biggest kids' movie of the year.

But it's not really true - children aren't immune to quality, which is one reason "Toy Story 3" and "Despicable Me" are cleaning up. "Ramona and Beezus"? In addition to being interminable (at 104 minutes, it's going to be beyond the tolerance of smaller children, to say nothing of their parents), it meanders from silly mini-episode to silly mini-episode powered by the dubious charms of young Joey King as Ramona, the classic can't-stay-out-of-trouble 9-year-old, and heroine of the Cleary books.

Although Beatrice, aka Beezus, is played by Selena Gomez, star of the Disney Channel's "Wizards of Waverly Place" - and perhaps the one genuine talent to rise out of that whole sitcom swamp - it's not Gomez's movie (even though the books are told from Beezus' point of view). No, the motto of "R&B" is Joey, Joey, Joey all the time, and that time is not a good one.

The tension of "Ramona and Beezus" comes from their father's having lost his job (John Corbett plays Dad) and endangering the Hallmark Hall of Fame lifestyle the Quimby family enjoys when not apologizing for Ramona, or visiting Ramona's teachers, or offering to repaint the SUV belonging to Hobart (Josh Duhamel), the hunky suitor of Ramona's Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin).

Ramona has turned the vehicle into something out of "Yellow Submarine." This happens through a typically tortured collision of gravity, bad brakes and loosely lidded paint cans, but the way director Elizabeth Allen gets Ramona into her fixes is always tortured and contrived. Viewers, on the other hand, will simply be tortured.


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