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The Lovely Bones movie poster

The Lovely Bones: Movie Review

Drama, Fantasy, Crime
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Susan Sarandon, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Saorise Ronan
Released by: DreamWorks Pictures

In Short: “Lord of the Rings” maestro Peter Jackson struggles to bring Alice Sebold’s best-selling novel of suburban murder to life in this flaccid adaptation.

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An Emotional Disconnect Kills Peter Jackson's Latest

For those millions of readers that pored over Alice Sebold’s 2002 best-selling novel The Lovely Bones, the new film adaptation is likely to disappoint. For despite an impressive pedigree featuring director Peter Jackson (Academy Award-winning helmer of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy), Oscar winners Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon, as well as Oscar nominees Mark Wahlberg and Saoirse Ronan, the cinematic experience falls flat.

It isn’t for lack of trying, as Jackson and company tell the tale of Susie Salmon (Ronan), the 14-year-old girl who, as the film begins, is brutally raped and murdered on her way home from school. She spends the rest of the story looking down from a place like heaven on her family, mom and dad (Wahlberg and Weisz), grandma (Sarandon), and older sister (Rose McIver), as they struggle to deal with the overwhelming loss.

Mark Wahlberg and Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones Saorise Ronan in The Lovely Bones

Meanwhile, living in plain sight is the twisted neighbor (Stanley Tucci) who has committed the murder—this is not a spoiler, we know this all along—and gotten away with it. As the Salmon family fractures from the stress of their grief, his evil emanates across the once happy suburban neighborhood.

Despite some performances, especially from Ronan, Sarandon and Tucci, and interesting special effects that surround Susie as she hovers between earth and heaven watching her family unravel, “The Lovely Bones” never catches our emotions. It’s as if we, too, are as removed as she is.

That’s the opposite of what happens as you read the novel, which proves that, despite Peter Jackson’s amazing success in adapting “The Lord of the Rings” to the screen, sometimes it is just better to leave a book as a book.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters

(Updated: 02/10/10 AR)

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