Grown Ups (2010)
Ramona and Beezus (2010)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
The Chronicles of Narnia (1988-1990)
An American in Paris (1953)
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Beverly Cleary’s most beloved character comes to home video in Ramona and Beezus, a wholesome family film that honors, for the most part, the spirit if not the letter of the books. Selena Gomez fans may want to see her as Beezus, but newcomer Joey King seals the deal with her impish smile, restless energy and bafflement that other people don’t see the world the way it obviously is.
The diffuse subplots — Mr. Quimby losing his job; Aunt Bea’s romantic ups and downs — gives the movie a lumpy shape that’s not untrue to the books, or to life. The whole matters less than the parts; what makes it work is the likability of the Quimbys and the genuineness of the relationships. Sweet family fun.
Other 2010 releases new on DVD aren’t as welcome. While I enjoyed bits and pieces of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World — a stylistically impressive comic book/video game movie — I can’t recommend it. Creative storytelling goes only so far; then I want more humanity than we get from this story of a Toronto slacker battling the “seven evil exes” of the girl of his dreams.
Also not recommended is the ironically named Grown Ups, a well-intentioned reunion tale with Adam Sandler and company as former high-school buddies sharing a cabin in the woods. The only remotely well-adjusted “grown-up” is Sandler’s Hollywood executive (!); all his friends are losers. Casual immoral behavior in both Scott Pilgrim and Grown Ups nails the coffin lids.
Looking beyond new releases, a number of new DVD editions for older productions are worth noting. There’s the 1980s’ BBC trilogy The Chronicles of Narnia, adapting the first four books in C.S. Lewis’ beloved series. Despite lame-to-okay production values and uneven acting, these are respectful, straightforward visualizations of the texts, aided by beautiful, rugged U.K. landscapes, splendid old castles and other locations, and some impressive sets.
Then there are new budget one-disc editions of two of Gene Kelly’s most beloved films. First and foremost is Singin’ in the Rain, my favorite musical of all time and one of the most entertaining movies about Hollywood ever made. An American in Paris, released the following year, isn’t in the same league, but it’s good-natured fun with spectacular hoofing.
Content advisory: Ramona and Beezus: Some domestic friction; a poignant episode involving a beloved family pet. The Chronicles of Narnia: Some scary images. Singin’ in the Rain: A suggestive dance number. An American in Paris: Mild romantic complications. Teens and up; all others fine family viewing.