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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    A ‘Lovely’ muddle

    The Lovely Bones

    WingNut Films

    Released January 15, 2010

    Final Grade: B

     

    We’ve come to expect a lot from Peter Jackson. Thousands of Tolkien fans salivated over his “”The Lord of the Rings”” trilogy, while “”District 9″” made audiences everywhere hate being human. Once again, Jackson has turned to his bookshelf for inspiration.

    In “”The Lovely Bones,”” Saoirse Ronan plays Susie Salmon, a 14-year-old girl in the early 1970s living in moments between lighthearted crushes and typical teenage sarcasm in a time before missing children appeared on the backs of milk cartons. Within the first 15 minutes the audience knows the story: she will be murdered by a man in her neighborhood. From there the film weaves a story of duality in which Susie examines the lives of the people around her from Heaven while they search for her body on Earth.

    If only the middle could be fast-forwarded. The computer-generated imagery, while often visually striking, is deliberately heavy-handed. Susie’s transition out of life is characterized by intense white light and the smoke machine straight form a middle school play. Heaven is no better: a fantastical mix of impressionist art and mountainous scenes probably cut from “”The Lord of the Rings”” extra footage make you want to smack your forehead. The montages of Lisa Frank-esque giggling scenes or blatantly sinister ghostly portals draw attention away from the real conflicts.

    Thankfully, the cast of “”The Lovely Bones”” and each character’s struggle to make sense of tragedy keep the movie from becoming a total flop. With every chuckled “”mmm”” and uncanny stare, Stanley Tucci’s interpretation of the murderer reeks with creepiness and suppressed insanity that make him fascinating to watch. Mark Wahlberg gives a surprisingly accurate depiction of optimistic denial and fatherly love. Ronan proves herself a talented young actress after an Oscar nomination from “”Atonement.”” Her ethereal blue eyes and wavy blonde hair fit naturally into both realistic and fantastical locations, while her perceptive narration adds clarity to the clumsier scenes.

    Those of you who have read Alice Sebold’s book from which the movie was adapted should prepare for some frustration. Jackson captures many of the delicious foreshadowing details, yet often completely misses the point. The novel is not a thriller or horror story, but an examination of the relationships that grow even in the worst circumstances. The film lacks this singular theme, instead rushing headlong between the desire for revenge and the overly sentimental interactions of a family in grief. Of course the movie could not capture all the beautiful nuances, but Jackson could have better honored The New York Times bestseller by steering away from CGI and violence to focus on the interconnectivity of human emotions.

    While transforming a novel into a movie is a challenge for any director, an adaptation of “”The Lovely Bones”” is nigh-impossible. Though the movie will be more disappointing for readers, the film is still an interesting take on the meaning of death and grief management. For all its flaws, the mix of grounded reality and innovative vision in “”The Lovely Bones”” is on the whole more delightful than it is unsatisfactory.

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