There's a Ramona movie coming out, and brace yourself, kids: it's not looking good.
Here is what we know: Ramona will be played in the upcoming Beezus and Ramona by one Joey King, an adorable nine-year-old Disney vet. Beezus is played by - wait for it! - Selena Gomez, the cute-as-a-button teen star whom Disney's positioning as the new Miley. In other words, the Quimby sisters are going to be just as cute and pretty and silly as you please.
Except, we don't please: Beezus and Ramona are not cute. Ramona's a terror who ages into a normal, relatable little girl. Beezus, meanwhile, is a bit of a grind who goes from long-suffering older-sister to slightly awkward adolescence. And their adventures are not particularly "zany"; for the most `part it's small-scale stuff that's funny because it's so normal and most of all, because the writing is so hilarious. I have a terrible feeling that this movie will do what they did to Harriet the Spy - not offensive, exactly, but innocuous, anonymous, brightly-colored candy floss that keeps the stories' broadest conceits but strip them of their quirks and interesting characters. Rather than living in the mid-century landscape of Beverly Cleary's novels, the Quimbys will probably live in some bright, modern suburb and dress like tweens; this, after all, is what happened to Harriet M. Welsch. It's not that this is so egregious, but a little Squid and the Whale-style patina would have made Harriet the Spy feel like the book. Kids are not stupid; they can comprehend other times and places. The fact that the Ramona series was started some fifty years ago has done nothing to alienate millions of readers.
It's not like this movie's going to ruin anything. Like most crummy adaptations, it will come and go and people will keep loving the books and hoping against hope that maybe someone who really gets it will give the story its due. (This is basically what happened to the Sarah Polley Ramona series of the 80's, which was fairly true to the books but still lacked their essential humor.) Of course, not all good writing is cinematic, but some adaptations work, most of them for TV: I remember seeing an adaptation of Alan and Naomi that captured all that story's poignancy; a BBC version of A Little Princess from the 80's still works better than any of the big-screen versions. But none of these books was as closely associated with an iconic set of illustrations as are the "Ramona" books or "Harriet the Spy." Maybe that's part of why they feel like particular desecrations. We know what Beezus looks like, and it's not Selena Gomez.
'Ramona' star is ready for wackiness [USA Today]