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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

July 15, 2010 at 10:40 AM

Miscasting “Ramona and Beezus”?

The other day, I picked up a copy of Beverly Cleary’s “Beezus and Ramona” at my neighborhood bookstore, to refresh my childhood memories before seeing the movie. (That was back when I thought I’d be reviewing the movie — turns out I won’t, as it’ll be screening while I’m on furlough next week.) It was, of course, a movie tie-in copy of the book, with a smiling photo on the cover of Selena Gomez, who plays Beezus, and Joey King, who plays Ramona. In the book, Beezus and Ramona are 10 and 4 respectively, and look like regular girls; in fact I’d always imagined Beezus (no doubt due to the drawings in my childhood copy of the book) as having slightly crooked bangs and a no-nonsense manner. Gomez and King look much older (they are, according to IMDB, 18 and 11), and like they just came from a junior beauty pageant. Even if you adjust a bit for age — the movie, I hear, is primarily based on the later “Ramona” books, so the girls are more like 16 and 8 — they just look polished and perfect and wrong, the way the “High School Musical” kids look like they’ve never seen an actual high school.
And why does this matter? Because I invited my 11-year-old niece to come with me to the screening — she loves movies and never says no — and she thought for a few minutes and then said no, thank you, because she liked the books and didn’t want to see them “wrecked.” Selena Gomez, she said, is wrong for the part; too old and too glamorous. Now, if 11-year-old girls are refusing to come to a movie aimed, hmm, at 11-year-old girls, something is very wrong here. Nothing against Gomez and King — I haven’t seen them perform, and perhaps they’re very good actors; they’re certainly very cute — but it’s frustrating the way kid movies are too often glamorized and tweaked, the way the “Percy Jackson” movie earlier this year added some five years or so to its hero’s age so as to make him a bland teen heartthrob. British movies seem to do a better job at this; the “Harry Potter” kids are all well cast (though I have my qualms about the girl playing Ginny Weasley), and one of the true joys in the uneven “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” was the enchanting performance of 8-year-old Georgie Henley as Lucy — a child who wasn’t Hollywood-pretty, but who had an almost magical quality of wonder onscreen. Maybe the girls in “Ramona and Beezus” have this; I don’t know. But I know at least one 11-year-old who won’t be there to see it.

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