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'Ramona and Beezus'
John Quimby (John Corbett) enjoys an enthusiastic welcome home from daughters Beezus (Selena Gomez, left) and Ramona (Joey King).

Remember the name Joey King.

That's not some crusty old Vegas comedian, but the pint-size star of "Ramona and Beezus." As the misfit middle child of a Portland, Ore., family, the kid's a natural, and she's likely to be sticking around awhile.

The same can't be said for the movie, which is so friction-free that it slips from memory before the credits fade.

Although it's based on the first book in a beloved series by Beverly Cleary ("Henry Huggins") that debuted in 1955, "Ramona and Beezus" is set in the present. So there's a potentially timely subplot about her father (John Corbett) losing his job and wondering whether to uproot his wife (Bridget Moynihan) and three kids to some scrubbier, start-over locale.

No problem, declares spunky, 9-year-old Ramona, who opens a lemonade stand and then a car-washing service to stave off the bill collectors. This is one of those family flicks where every mishap — a car covered in rainbow paint — is an occasion for forgiving hugs.

The books are built around the mostly love-sometimes hate relationship between imaginative Ramona and her adolescent sister Beatrice (aka "Beezus," played by Selena Gomez). But here, that relationship takes a back seat to the economic uncertainty and to the romantic travails of Aunt Bea (Ginnifer Goodwin) and her carefree ex-boyfriend Hobart (Josh Duhamel).

The divided focus is so fuzzy that we never get a clear sense of what makes Ramona so special. There are a couple of cute animated fantasy sequences but, except for a limber pop-rock soundtrack ("Walking on Sunshine" again?), there's little of the rubbery energy that propels kid-centric comedies like "Malcolm in the Middle" and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid."

Still, in Vegas, they're betting that Joey King will bounce back.