Lovely book, shame about the movie

BY MICHAEL JOYCE The Lovely Bones (12A) Director Peter Jackson Starring Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Michael Imperioli 125 mins Two star rating Imagine a version of Psycho with a wishy-washy new age narration by Janet Leig

The Lovely Bones (12A) Director Peter Jackson Starring Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Michael Imperioli

125 mins

Two star rating

Imagine a version of Psycho with a wishy-washy new age narration by Janet Leigh as she watches the events of her murder and its aftermath from some astral plane that looked like a mix of scenes from What Dreams May Come and The Fountain. Sound enticing?


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In the opening half hour of Peter (Lord Of The Rings) Jackson's film of Alice Sebold's much read novel, a 14-year-old girl (Atonement's Ronan) is murdered.

She spends the rest of the film watching on from heaven, following the hunt for her killer and its effects on the people she left behind. She observes but can't get involved; it's a state many in the audience will understand.

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The film slips away from us quite early on and it goes wrong in exactly the way you feared it would - Jackson overdoes heaven.

His CGI afterlife is ravishing and sumptuous - in one scene giant ships in bottles crash onto a rugged New Zealand coastline - but the more fantastic the visual effects, the more you object to them. Jackson has latched onto a literary device and made it the whole point. These scenes squash the rest of the film.

The early Jackson, the one who made Heavenly Creatures, had the range and subtly to do it. But now he's been submerged in gigantism - even his film about a giant gorilla managed to be overblown.

In the earthbound drama, Weisz and Wahlberg (a last-minute replacement for Ryan Gosling) are good as the parents. But as the child murderer, Tucci is rather hampered by being given the generic child murderer's comb over. You marvel at how he can go undiscovered - he looks exactly like a child killer.

A young innocent girl being brutally murdered but ending up in heaven is traditionally David Lynch territory. The Lovely Bones moves it somewhere more provocative - the 12A rating. I think there's something fundamentally wrong with a 12A child murder film.

Everything in the film gets sidelined to the central all-encompassing push for transcendence. Susie is continually being urged to move on, let it go and allow herself to ascend from her own personal little heaven up into big heaven. This goes against the audience's instinct; we don't want her to move on or give up on her family.

The film shows us unbearable pain and within a few minutes is urging us to get over it. What should be emotionally shattering instead provokes a sense of oh well, never mind.

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