Saturday 4 September 2010

Movie Review: The Lovely Bones (2009)

A poor book turned into a disastrous movie, this horrid adaptation has strong potential as a contender for a future "so bad, it's good" classification.

Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is a 14 year old schoolgirl in suburban Pennsylvania. On the way home from school one day, she takes a short-cut through a corn field and is murdered by a creepy neighbour. Caught between earth and heaven, Susie observes how her death impacts her family and friends.

The trouble is, we are not really made to care about any of the characters, so in attempting to establish emotional connections, the movie starts from a poor position and loses ground fast.

To call all the characters in this film one-dimensional is an insult to the number one. The characters are so ill-defined they may as well all be ghosts. Mark Wahlberg as Susie's Dad goes from undecipherable in the book to just blank in the film. Rachel Weisz as Susie's Mom has most of her anguish cancelled; her affair is eliminated; her escape to another life is truncated; her return to her family is unexplained. Michael Impirioli as the detective investigating Susie's disappearance is reduced to a marginal wooden role. Reece Ritchie as Susie's would-be boyfriend, and Carolyn Dando as the dark school-mate who connects with Susie's spirit, are given very little to do except look serious.

A movie is always in trouble when the bad guy unintentionally becomes the most interesting character. We are not exactly cheering for Stanley Tucci as the murderer George Harvey, but we are tempted.

Instead of providing interesting characters in what should be a character-driven story, The Lovely Bones provides endless computer generated psychedelic images of Susie wading through dreamy and surreal natural landscapes, set against a bland soundtrack of limp electronic music. Unfortunately, the ground never opens up long enough to swallow Susie and put an end to proceedings prior to the interminable running time of 136 endless minutes.

Susan Sarandon gate-crashes the film with an over-the-top, scenery-chewing turn as the smoking, alcoholic grandma. It is a ridiculous role, but at least someone here is alive.

To his horror, Peter Jackson must have realized partway through directing this bowl of porridge that the only really good thing about the book is its opening line. The script jettisons large chunks of the book in an attempt to salvage a watchable film , but only succeeds in stripping a shallow story down to nothingness.

The most crushing disappointment in this mess? When heaven is finally revealed, it closely resembles a wheat field in rural Saskatchewan. Let's not all rush in, now.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

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