Lovely Bones Film Review: Peter Jackson, you better pray The Hobbit is enough to forgive what you've done here.
Scripts Like This Should Have Biohazard Signs
Hold Onto Your Lugnuts, It's Time For An Overhaul!
As a disclaimer, I have not read the book upon which this film was based. After watching The Lovely Bones , a title which is only loosely connected to the story by a single inconsequential line of narration, I have no desire to. And if the book was actually on par with the film both in portrayal and storyline, or lack thereof, I'll be looking up the legalities of filing a restraining order against the author preventing her from coming within 100 yards of writing utensils. Even so much as a crayon.
Don't read any further unless you want spoilers either.
She Looks Healthy For Being Dead
Peter Jackson's understanding of cinematography is, as ever, masterful. Though his conception of the "In-between" wherefrom our 14 year old corpse girl of a narrator speaks, while CGI eye-candy, becomes tiresome for all the unnecessary screen time it gets. Unnecessary and tiresome are two words you will find yourself repeating in a prayer-like mantra should you ever be forced to sit through this 135 minute long mish-mash of concepts and genres. Also it does open that unpleasant door through which What Dreams May Come and Constantine fell regarding the nature of the afterlife. Rather than sticking with any single denomination, Jackson seems to have chosen a pastoral instrumentality wherein the deceased influence their world, both consciously and subconsciously. Of course, a nice touch would be the ability to make oneself as you have always wished to be, but since our dead and rotting protagonist was always such a perfect little Pollyanna with absolutely no flaws, wants, goals, or any defining qualities you would come across outside a bedtime story, she stays exactly as she is.
Credit where it's due: the actors tried. Long-haired, wide-collared Mark Wahlberg always looks as if he should've lived in the '70's in the first place. And while his descent into his own personal realm of paranoia as he looks for possible culprits for the murder of his eldest daughter, our narrator, is convincing, I just wish something (ANYTHING!) came of it. Instead, he sits and stews, eventually coming to acceptance of her death on his own and in a fashion which has no bearing or effect on the story. The same can be said for our corpse's younger sister, mother, and grandmother, played by Rose McIver, Rachel Weisz, and Susan Sarandon respectively. Honestly, I had a glimmer of hope regarding the younger sister, Rose McIver, who suspected the killer from the start and went about investigating him. But like everything else in this story, it just peters out before it can build up any momentum or suspense. Spending over two hours watching scenes and alternating between "oh, that's nice" or "Ooh, that's almost gross" is not storytelling nor is it entertainment. It's what you say to your grandmother to be polite when she tells you about her hemorrhoid surgery.
Won't You Be My Neighbor?
The Lovely Bones's only saving grace, though not actually sufficient to save it, I should point out, may be the murderer and resident psychopath Mr. Harvey, played by Stanley Tucci. Something about his appearance and behavior is reprehensible up to the very last scene, a quality which is perhaps the single solitary nod toward the concept of horror the film makes, despite the premise of our narrator being only the latest of a string of grisly murders. It becomes known that Mr. Harvey killed dozens, (not to anyone but the narrator, of course, who does no more about it than anyone else) but rather than feel anger or dislike toward him, I began to root for him halfway through the film for two very distinct reasons.
1. As the only genuinely active character, I was hoping he would carry out another murder simply so I would have something to watch which might resemble a set-up for a plot.
2. Since the murdered girl meets all the other victims in The In-between, who are ostensibly quite happy, the story's overall message seems to be that serial murderers who prey upon little girls are a good thing and perform a very necessary service to our society.
So Many Possibilities. None Panned Out.
Giving Female Writers A Bad Name Since The Bodice-Ripper
This is another sad example of Mary Jane feminist fiction trying to masquerade as genre fiction, which is becoming a serious epidemic in film, television, and print to the degree that genuinely skilled writers are being passed over. I think of them as "could've beens".
The Lovely Bones could've been a mystery. Since the actual murder itself is not shown, the premise could be that the ghost of a murdered girl must find a way to contact her friends, relatives, and the police to prevent the killer from killing again, with the personal hurdle being the ghost girl reliving her own locked-away memories of the horrible event in order to warn others. But since the murderer's identity was revealed in the first few minutes, it wasn't a mystery.
It could've been a supernatural thriller if it had been the ghost girl trying to work through the unfathomable maze of the afterlife whilst the murderer is setting up and getting ready to prey upon his next victim. A race between the dead and living, if you will. But the murderer abandons his intentions upon his next victim, and the ghost girl, when given the opportunity to point out who killed her, instead prefers to kiss the boy she'd had a crush on in life and say goodbye, trusting to the universe to make things right and allowing the killer to keep hunting... Yes, the ending was that inane and unsatisfying. The girl simply accepts being murdered and moves on, making me wonder why in the name of all that's holy anyone would want to waste their time on this piece of drek.
It could've been sheer flat-out horror had we delved further into the twisted and obscene mind of the killer, perhaps with the ghost haunting him and eventually forcing him to turn himself in. But every time we began to look into his world and felt the slightest bit uncomfortable, it cut away to syrupy and maudlin family life or the insufferably cheerful philosophy of The In-between. The shifts in tempo were so sharp and jerky it was like watching the helpless, frenetic spasms of an epileptic at a discotheque, all in all making for the foaming, chinless, mentally-impaired bastard offspring of bad storytelling, overused narration, and pointless computer generated imaging.
Take a tip. If you've got this disc in your video library, grab a shotgun and take Old Yeller out back for skeet. Maybe you'll get some use out of it then.