Rated G

Children 7 and older are in for a treat. "Ramona and Beezus" is wholly delightful as directed with gentleness and humor by Elizabeth Allen and acted by a first-rate cast. Based on Beverly Cleary's beloved books, the movie offers complex emotions instead of fake sentimentality and real family life in all its twists and turns, dust-ups and affection.

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Ramona Quimby (wonderful Joey King) is "9-and-a-month" years old. She's a sweet but independent and imaginative pixie who gets distracted and daydreams in school. She's forever getting into pickles her older sister Beezus (Selena Gomez) - that's Ramona's childhood mispronunciation of Beatrice - and their parents Robert (John Corbett) and Dorothy (Bridget Moynahan) find more amusing than troubling.

Her teacher, Mrs. Meacham (Sandra Oh), wishes Ramona would apply herself better. Ramona often feels misunderstood and loves confiding in her Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin). She feels betrayed when Aunt Bea falls again for an old flame, Hobart (Josh Duhamel), and may move away. This comes on top of the fact that Dad loses his job and becomes a house husband while Mom goes back to work. There's a chance her family will have to move, too, but Ramona unwittingly finds a solution.

The bottom line: Issues such as a parent's job loss and a family worrying about money are sensitively handled. So is the idea of parents arguing and Ramona's fear (an idea planted by a school friend) that they may get divorced. All these things are part of real life, but in "Ramona and Beezus," with touches of wit and real emotion, they're expertly dealt with.

Jane Horwitz, The Washington Post

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