Just five short years ago, we wrote about the fact that Beverly Clearly had signed a deal to bring her series of Ramona books to the big screen, starting with Beezus and Ramona. That movie (which is now oddly titled Ramona and Beezus) will finally hit the screen this year, albeit with a few changes. Namely that Beezus and Ramona have aged quite a bit. Especially in the Beezus department. Is that going to sink this adaptation of a beloved classic?
Readers of the books will remember a couple of cute, precocious sisters fighting with each other about things like a game of checkers. Ramona was four years old, and Beezus was ten. However, now that Selena Gomez of Disney's The Wizards of Waverly Place is playing Beezus (and will be 18 in July), the eye-popping specter of puberty appears in this children's classic, and runs off the rails of Mister Roger's Neighborhood and right into Gossip Girl territory.
Gomez was recently named one of Vanity Fair's "Women to Watch," and she's also rumored to be dating (again) the washboard-abbed, white-toothed Twilight heartthrob Taylor Lautner. Joey King, who turns 11 later this year, will be playing the rambunctious Ramona ... which makes me wonder how they'll possibly revisit this series for Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Although Ramona later becomes the focus of the stories, the first book (or second in the series, if you count Henry Huggins) is told from Beezus' point of view.
Can you imagine a filmed adaptation of Judy Blume's beloved Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing starring Taylor Lautner as Peter Drexel? He was nine years old in that book, but Lautner is the same age as Gomez. Would the magic still work? It's doubtful, but Fox 2000 is hoping to ride the Gomez lightning when this movie comes out in August. But was this the wisest path to choose with this book?
My two cents says it's not worth messing with a classic, especially from someone as universally loved as Beverly Cleary. When you jack with the ages like this, you're not only changing the story, you're going to require recasting if other movies get made. Daniel Radcliffe grew into (and later outgrew) the Harry Potter role, but Joey King's growing up is going to quickly outpace the cute tomboy that Ramona is, and Gomez moves the awkward ten-year old Beezus into the vivacious 17 year-old arena.
We'll have to wait until later in the year to see how this turned out, but our own Elisabeth Rappe said it best when she said Beverly Cleary's The Mouse and the Motorcycle would be a great movie. Leave Ramona for some age-appropriate casting, or as an ongoing children's television series.