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"The Lovely Bones" Review

Partially because I don't have time to read fiction - the last novel I finished was Snow Crash. In 2000. I'm not kidding - and mostly because I believe movies have to stand alone from their source material - oh, wait, I read the 1st Harry Potter book before the movie came out in 2001, like that's more recent - and...wait, where was I? Oh yeah, The Lovely Bones, the latest from Peter Jackson, maker of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, a book I tried to read, found craptastic, but thoroughly enjoyed the films.

The story is pretty simple: Susie Salmon ("Like the fish," she says) is a 14-year-old girl on the cusp of blossoming who is murdered by her creepy neighbor (Stanley Tucci), her body stashed away, leaving her family with no sense of closure. After her death, she finds herself stuck in what's called "the In-Between," a surrealistic world where elements of her life are recomposed into some breathtaking tableaus.

Played by Saoirse Ronan (pronounced "sur-shuh"), whose big blue eyes seem to float in the milky sea of her skin, Susie's life - well, almost afterlife - watching is poignant until the film's halfway mark where Jackson has a pair of head-scratchingly awful sequences which throw the film's tone out the window. Starting with Susie's cavorting with another dead friend thru settings that look like Saturday morning commercials, then having Susan Sarandon's blowzy drunk grandmother slapstick around, The Lovely Bones never really recovers its footing after that. When the identity of the killer is finally discovered, something so stupid happens that allows him to get away that it's not until the film's final ending that something even dumber happens. (Suffice to say, there is no way in hell that parking lot could exist in that place without a freaking guard rail.)

I'd heard a lot of teeth-gnashing from the fans of the best-selling novel about how Jackson had deviated from the novel, especially that the rape and murder of Susie isn't shown. Since the lead-up to the crime is so gut-wrenching as it is, what do these ghouls think would be gained by watching it happen? We get that she's in trouble and know that it ends badly for her, but have we devolved to the point that the shower scene from Psycho is unsatisfying because it's not as graphic as a Saw movie? Yeesh.

The performances are all good, even Marky Mark as the distraught, obsessed father, but the show rests on Ronan's shoulders and she keeps The Lovely Bones afloat as best as she can despite Jackson's missteps. Considering he was able to snip and bend LoTR into a coherent form from an unreadable book, I'm not sure what went wrong here, but despite some striking visuals and heartfelt moments, there just isn't enough meat on these Lovely Bones.

Score: 5/10 - Catch it on cable.


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