It took me a long time to read “The Lovely Bones.” The original book is initially not the easiest read. It starts off with the rape & murder of Suzie Salmon. The first time I picked the book up and read the opening pages, I quickly put it down, not getting back to it for a while. But then, after being prompted by my wife, I decided to try again. And I managed to finish it many weeks after getting started. It’s not that it’s a slow story, it’s just that there really isn’t anywhere for it to go. And even though I enjoyed reading the book, I knew going into the film that there probably was gonna be issues even though Peter Jackson was the director. And I was right.
“The Lovely Bones” is not a great movie. I know I wanted it to be. And with all the Oscar buzz for Stanley Tucci, I was hoping that he could save what I knew was going to be an average film. But he doesn’t. Not that his performance isn’t good, because it is. But overall, this film suffers from a few factors. One being the story itself. The second being the fact that Jackson had to come up with his version of the afterlife where Suzie is stuck for most of the film. And the third problem is the casting.
Problem #1: the story. Jackson and his writers took way to many liberties with this movie and without going into major plot points, they left a bunch out. So if you’ve read the book, trust me that you are going to be disappointed with what they have done to a few of the character’s roles and some of the most interesting parts of the novel.
Problem #2: the afterlife. It all LOOKS very pretty on film. Peter Jackson does manage to come up with some interesting visuals and on the big screen, they are very pretty and all. But what’s the point? FLowers blooming in ice. Trees morphing into birds. Giant ships in bottles crashing along the ocean shoreline. It’s all neat to look at. But seriously? Where’s it going? Because in the end, all of it is meaningless. And it never really helps hide the fact that Suzie is dead and now she can’t go to heaven until her “soul” has found peace. And that’s really what the movie & the book are about.
The third problem is the casting. And on paper you might be led to believe that it’s a stellar cast. You have Tucci, Susan Sarandon and Rachel Weisz, who are all spectacular actors and who do their roles justice in a limited way (due to the writing). But then you have Mark Wahlberg as the father and Michael Imperioli completely miscast as an investigator and the movie falls apart. I’ve written about my dislike of Wahlberg as a lead in a movie and this film is justifiable evidence that he just doesn’t have the chops. He doesn’t hold this film together and he looks simply ridiculous with his 70’s hair and clothing, trying to portray a father who has lost one of his children. It’s a tough character to play and he fails miserably. And with him, so does the film.
“The Lovely Bones” is not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. It has it’s moments (usually involving the creepy Stanley Tucci). But it sinks when it strays from the book and, unfortunately, it does that quite often.
Overall Rating: C-