Review: "Ivy + Bean"
With adorable stars and inventive visualization of children's imaginations, this adaptation is worthy of the best-selling books that served as inspiration. At just under an hour, Ivy + Bean is the right length for young viewers (and their parents) as well. The two main characters are brought to life by stars Validum and Blalock as genuine little girls whose make-believe worlds feel entirely real to them. They fully believe they can cast spells, hide from adults in plain sight, storm through jungles like khaki-clad adventurers, catch and train bears, and so on.
The film helps viewers enter into their imaginary worlds by enacting what the girls are thinking. In that way, it captures the creativity of kids and allows us to feel moments from their perspective, which includes the utter boredom of shopping with family and how large and intimidating an antagonistic adult can feel. While Bean's behavior at the start borders on bratty, the film successfully renders the ingenuity of kids when they're relieved of responsibilities, devoid of screens, and simply left to play.
The formula for Netflix’s adaptation of the best-selling book series becomes clearer in the second entry to the series, where the titular dynamic duo confronts an adult baddie and gets into trouble. Jane Lynch plays the mean adult in Ivy + Bean: The Ghost That Had to Go, and she does it with gusto, staring down her nose and dismissively sending the littles to detention. A funny scene has her trying on a pair from her beloved shoe collection and accidentally farting in the process.
The ghost plot feels like a pretense to get the gang together to embark on yet another imaginative adventure, this one involving circumventing parents, cutting a lock of hair from an enemy (big sister Nancy), and unfortunately flooding the school bathroom. The girls are duly punished but stop to make a very sweet oath before they’re sent to their rooms. The series captures childhood energy (cartwheels across the school lawn) and ingenuity. It’s good, innocent fun.
The third in the new book-based series from Netflix is the weakest yet, but it’s still good fun. Ivy + Bean: Doomed to Dance trades in Cruella-style baddies for a male nemesis in pretentious ballet instructor “Monsieur Joie.” The character is played with campy joie by Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who is priceless when he spins out of frame and ballet-leaps across a parking lot. His cat sweater-sporting mother hilariously revels in her irritating son’s misfortunes. Ivy and Bean’s world is magical and their friendship delightful. May the series live on.
Read the full reviews at Common Sense Media.
Images courtesy of Netflix.