The Lovely Bones
Hey, Candle! What’d you see out there? Alright, say hi to your mother for me.

Golden Mug

Supporting Actor (Stanley Tucci)

Art Direction (Naomi Shohan)

Theatrical Release Date: 01/15/2009
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, Rose McIver, Reece Ritchie, Nikki SooHoo, Michael Imperioli

Based on the novel of the same name by Alice Sebold, “The Lovely Bones” is a film about a dead girl’s spirit, navigating through limbo and overseeing the events that transpire after her death at the hands of a serial killer in the 1970s. Just another light-hearted affair for the whole family … not.

Lord of the Geeks, Peter Jackson, is at the helm of this one and it’s clear that his directorial vision may not jibe with fans of the book or more critical audience members. I’ve never read the book but in speaking with those who have and who also saw the film, they mentioned how the main focus of the motion picture was shifted squarely towards the murdered girl (Saoirse) and her killer (Stanley Tucci).

The family members and other peripheral characters that get a decent amount of development in the book are sort of left by the wayside here. This is clear even to those of us who hadn’t opened the novel’s cover, as many characters seem to make too far a leap between their development over the course of the film and there were times when I wondered if some scenes were missing, because then I could justify how some characters begin to relate and act towards one another.

Jackson seemed to be much more interested in the victim and killer dynamic, as well as showing off some tremendous CGI landscapes and effects. One thing I definitely will grant the film is its sense of style, the production design is excellent, and the majority of the fantasy/heaven sequences are strikingly beautiful. If you are more interested in seeing his visual flair, this is definitely one to watch – though I’m not saying that the overall film is necessarily a waste of time.

On a positive note, Saoirse Ronan follows up her impressive debut in 2007′s “Atonement” with another solid performance here. She easily commands the screen and while her voice over work seemed a bit disconnected at times, it’s easy to see why she was cast (and it was done so before the accolades came through from her first film).

Susan Sarandon does a wonderful job as the kooky, free-spirited Grandma and adds much needed life to the middle section of the film. Also, look for Stanley Tucci to be nominated for his role here as it is one of the creepiest and convincing serial killers I’ve seen. It’s on a par with Jackie Earl Haley’s powerful performance in “Little Children” and acting aficionados should see this simply for Tucci’s work. The contacts he wears are only part of the skin-tingling element as he layers the character with a sliminess and haunting quality that I hope to never experience in real life as I prefer my sleep nightmare free.

But while there are plenty of technical aspects to praise, the overall result is muddled. Wahlberg was a last minute addition to the cast after Ryan Gosling dropped out and the first choice was to have been Hugh Jackman, though he declined the role early on. While I’ve liked Marky Mark in other films, casting him as a father just doesn’t work, he doesn’t exude paternal in the slightest and it completely detracted from the film.

Weisz isn’t quite the right fit either and the film takes a nosedive about thirty minutes before the end – wandering into the truly supernatural, fantastical side of things. A 3 out of 5, “The Lovely Bones” isn’t a bad film but apparently would have benefited from including a few more elements from the book to help explain the characters’ actions and it’s clear that style trumped substance now and again for Jackson. If you weren’t already interested in the film, I wouldn’t do much to convince you otherwise but for anyone already planning to go, I wouldn’t dissuade you either – how’s that for a recommendation?