Combustible Celluloid
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With: Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, Jake Abel, Thomas McCarthy, Michael Imperioli, Amanda Michalka, Rose McIver, Reece Ritchie, Andrew James Allen, Nikki SooHoo
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, based on the novel by Alice Sebold
Directed by: Peter Jackson
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving disturbing violent content and images, and some language
Running Time: 135
Date: 11/24/2009

The Lovely Bones (2009)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Heart of 'Bones'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Loyal readers have waited since 2002 to see the movie version of Alice Sebold's novel; the project has changed hands a few times, unfortunately bypassing Lynne Ramsay and winding up in the hands of Peter Jackson. I suppose that if Jackson could have made something akin to his masterpiece Heavenly Creatures (1994), he may have been onto something, but the finished film of The Lovely Bones is more like one of his "boy's adventure" movies, filled with jokes, suspense and special effects.

Saoirse Ronan stars as Susie Salmon ("like the fish"), who is murdered at age 14 and watches her family from heaven. Her father (Mark Wahlberg) becomes obsessed with finding the identity of the murderer: a creepy neighbor (Stanley Tucci), who builds dollhouses and keeps to himself. Rachel Weisz plays the mother who gives up and runs away. Thankfully Susan Sarandon is on board as Grandma Lynn, who drinks constantly and makes it look as if everyone else is nuts. Meanwhile, Susie occupies a visually splendid heaven, with all kinds of colorful, ever-shifting images, shared with the mysterious "Holly Golightly" (Nikki SooHoo).

More than anything, The Lovely Bones feels like a film circling the book, eyeing it uncertainly and trying different kinds of styles and moods to see if anything fits. As it stands, some scenes work and some do not, and they fail to add up to a coherent artistic whole.

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