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The Lovely Bones (2009)

2009 film adaptation of the novel of the same name, directed by Peter Jackson.

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While stuffed with dazzling imagery, this Peter Jackson-directed flick is melodramatic and empty.

  • Jan 22, 2011
*1/2 out of ****

I thought that perhaps I would go back and give Peter Jackson's latest film, "The Lovely Bones", a second chance. I thought that maybe it would be better the second time around. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I would give it my full attention. Upon finishing the film, I kind of had to wonder why the hell I revisited it. I didn't like it at first, and strangely enough, I still don't like it. I'm a Peter Jackson supporter by all means. I liked "The Lord of the Rings" film trilogy, I loved "King Kong", and just about anything else before had satisfied me in some way or another. But this isn't a film directed by the Peter Jackson that I have chosen by my personal will to admire and therefore support. I think "The Lovely Bones", contrary to the absolutely stunning works Jackson is capable of producing, is just a big heaping pile of melodramatic crap. Before you ask, I read the novel. It's an intelligently written one; devoid of the melodrama, simplicity, and flat-out stupidity that plagues the first ever film adaptation. And since it's directed by such a great man, all I have to ask is: what went wrong? Perhaps it had something to do with Jackson's ability to convey the religious (or as the case may be, anti-religious) message of the novel. Or perhaps Jackson just wanted to make another film so his fans would stop bickering. Yes, it's been a while since he's made something. Four years is a fairly long hiatus, even if you're a guy like Peter Jackson. But I'd rather he focus on something else, perhaps something more worthy of his talents, then just make something out of the blue. To the film's credit, Jackson wanted to make it. It's also well-acted and completely watchable; I just can't seem to find a reason to be interested. Yes, I like pretty things. I like CGI, but only when it's used in creative ways. And since nearly every CGI-infested scene in this film is essentially a bore, very few are left to be the drop-dead gorgeous happenings that they should have been. Long story short; "The Lovely Bones" is an unfocused film. This is the worst film by Peter Jackson; perhaps the only "bad" film the man has ever made. It's not unwatchable, but with a nearly ear-splitting soundtrack and an excess of CGI, it's quite a tedious watch. It's been attacked by religious men and women for being "anti-Christian". The message of the film is as questionable as it was in the book, no doubt. Me, I just think it's a mess. I think it's a completely forgettable, melodramatic film that could have easily made it to the Lifetime Movie Network, if it hadn't been so riddled with special effects. After all, if you want to make "heaven", make it look good. That's about all that Jackson gets right, although I must admit that the casting is excellent. Everything else makes "The Lovely Bones" one of the biggest disappointments to come out of a man like Jackson. If you love the man so much, then save yourself the mental turmoil of sitting through this trip. It's not worth the agonizing boredom involved.

Susie Salmon is a 14-year old girl living with her family in a suburban house somewhere in the world. She has dreams of becoming a photographer someday. Her ambitions sometimes cause her to take pictures of everything she sees wherever she goes. However, what Susie likes to do isn't the focus of this story. The big focus of the plot is that one day while coming home from school, Susie is raped and murdered by a man named Mr. Harvey. The man lives in the same neighborhood as Susie, and while he's certainly creepy as hell, nobody would take him for a pedophile. So after Susie dies, her spirit lives on. She can't go to heaven quite yet since she must earn her (figurative) stripes in a Purgatory-type realm, where everything is beautifully rendered by the power of CGI and colors. Susie watches over her family and her killer for quite some time (as in the novel), but then the story takes a dip downwards into "self-journey" territory. From then on, "The Lovely Bones" is melodramatic and tedious. The film cares less about the grief of Susie's family and more on the "thrilling" aspects of finding out who the killer is. While they're wrapped up in this whole "whodunit" case, Susie is in Purgatory frolicking around and fearing an ominous lighthouse. The message of the film is essentially that if you die, then you have a whole world of awesome to look forward to. It's a horrible message, I know, and I also know that it's not the kind of thing that Jackson probably intended. But it matters not what he wanted to do. In this case, I think it's what he manages to do that matters, and sadly that's not much. "The Lovely Bones" is a tedious and often times unrealistic film. It's portrayal of what many call heaven is incredibly inaccurate (although I've never been to heaven, so I wouldn't know), and the emotional factor is much lower than it should be. For better or for worse, the actual rape and murder is not shown. This doesn't surprise me, since Peter Jackson ain't exactly Gaspar Noe. But then again, he's still Peter Jackson. And he can do better than this. I think that "The Lovely Bones" simply mixes too many genre elements, and it results in one big heck of a mess. I disliked the film as much as I did because it feels stupid. Jackson's story-telling consistently hints at meaning and philosophical musings, but "The Lovely Bones" is dumb in its own pretentious sense. It's not a film worth seeing; even if some of the "in-between/purgatory" sequences are quite fascinating visually. But it's not worth it to get a few visual thrills. It's not worth being as bored as "The Lovely Bones" left me. Maybe it's just me being the hard critic that I am when it comes to melodramatic films, but this is just plain ridiculous. It's hard to believe that a guy like Jackson could make something so poorly conceived. But then again, aren't most director's doing this? You betcha!

"The Lovely Bones" is that terribly troubled kind of film that has things you love about it and things you detest. One of the few but crucial things I liked about Peter Jackson's adaptation was the performances. Most of them are good, and I think I'll note the bigger talents first. Saoirse Ronan is very good as Susie. While some of her dialogue (most of it spoken in the afterlife) feels a little silly, she never feels like she's completely pretending. I think that she knows the role well enough to fit it, and I sure as hell want to see her in some other films; perhaps a better one next time. The best actor in the film is none other than Stanley Tucci, who plays an almost overwhelmingly convincing pedophile. You gotta love Tucci; an admirable man who really gets into the characters that only he can play. I loved him in this; even if he was playing an unpleasant and somewhat sick man. Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz portray the parents of Susie's character, and both of them are fairly decent. The only problem I have is that this is not a great example of their talents; but then again it's not a bad one either. None the less, the cast is a reason why I watched the film. Tucci was my favorite actor in the whole film, while everyone else, good or not, just tends to fade.

Another thing I liked about "The Lovely Bones" was the visual style. It's a beautifully shot film from start to finish, and the Heaven/"In-Between" sequences are exploding with the kind of CGI magic that you'd expect out of Jackson. This time, he mixes beautiful imagery with potentially disturbing themes, and the end result is just plain messy. While I kind of enjoyed myself whilst looking at the thing, "The Lovely Bones" was still, in my opinion, a very flawed film. The direction itself isn't exactly perfect, and its reach exceeds its grasp. Perhaps Jackson's "The Lovely Bones" could have been compelling if it had stuck to the main point of the book, which was that the murdered girl watched over her parents and her killer throughout. In Jackson's film, Susie spends more times running about in the CGI fields than caring for her grieving parents in spiritual ways. Sure, there's that whole theme about the connection between the living and the dead, but it never goes beyond the usual "I saw her in the window" approach. Simply said; it's just plain bland. "The Lovely Bones" is the kind of movie that I wanted to like due to the subject matter, but it's just not thought-provoking or intelligent enough to inspire any sort of sympathy for the film itself. All in all, the bad overshadows the good. There's plenty of pretty special effects on display here, but it's nothing compared to the excessively depressing tone of the film. And it's also a melodramatic and cheesy experience. And you know how much I hate melodrama; a lot. It's a rather joyless film that doesn't know where it's going. It has the capacity to be entertaining in some scenes, although it's never truly as interesting as it should be. Jackson aims for art with this one, but it's all-together a generic piece of Hollywood potboiler crap. I don't completely hate it, but it's a damn big disappointment. And with Jackson consistently throwing attempted "meaning" at the audience, it can easily get annoying at times as well. This is Jackson's first failure and I believe that it will also be his last. Jackson is a talented director; he just didn't know what he was doing here. Not enough passion put into the film; not enough time. It feels rushed and forgettable; both of which are things that should never have to apply to a film directed by the great Peter Jackson. In the end, I still respect the man, but only because he hasn't failed me aside from with his newest film. I'm sorry Jackson, but your movie kind of stinks.

"The Lovely Bones" does not explore death as it should. It's supposed to be some sort of complex meditation of the afterlife and the consequences of living, but it never reaches the heights that Jackson wants it to. I think that it could have been a fairly entertaining watch if Jackson hadn't bombarded it with cliché after cliché; wrong after wrong. With that being said, it's not a terrible film; it's just a bad one. But that's just my opinion. I've seen so many films like this to the point where they just tend to bore me. "The Lovely Bones" does something more though. It manages to drag out all this melodrama and pretentiousness to a full two hours, which I find absolutely preposterous. The film is too long, and it's less artistic than it should be. For a film about such a horrible subject as rape, it should be powerful; it should be riveting. It should have been remotely disturbing but ultimately rewarding in its beauty. Jackson's film feels more like a movie made for teens rather than one made for adults or real film lovers. It has its little moments of entertainment and glory, but everything else fades. It's a forgettable watch; a mess that shall be forgotten in some decent time. While it could be called mediocre or even good by some, I'm not in favor with its themes of its style. It's a mess; and not the kind that I can easily forgive. Jackson, remember this: you need to back up flawed story-telling and message-making with more than just CGI. You can't win us over with Special Effects alone. So why did you think you could here? Well, maybe you didn't. I still like Jackson, and I have no doubt that his next film will be good stuff. Some director's have bad days. This is Jackson's first. And hopefully, it will be his last, as long as fate is on our side.

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January 24, 2011
You are so about about this flick, Jackson could have done so much better. But the acting was excellent, Stanley Tucci = brilliance in this.
January 24, 2011
Yes, Tucci was great. But that was about it.
January 23, 2011
a lot of folks wondered if Jackson ever read the book..I didn't read the book myself, but I still thought that the movie was nothing spectacular. Thanks! I will be right back...your reviews are so deep in detail that I need to try to absorb them.
January 23, 2011
Well...I'll be darned. Thank you Will.
More The Lovely Bones (2009 movie) reviews
review by . January 17, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
In 2002, a woman named Alice Sebold wrote a book called The Lovely Bones.  It was well known for how it began so tragically and ended on such an uplifting note.  The book has gone on to be an acclaimed classic, selling over ten million worldwide.  The movie had a lot to live up to in that case.  And I'd like to tell The Lovely Bones is a wonderful movie filled with heart and joy.  Instead it's actually more like getting stabbed to death without dying.  You just WISH …
review by . January 14, 2010
Did Peter Jackson even read The Lovely Bones?
 I would not have thought that Peter Jackson, the director of the infamous Lord of the Rings trilogy (in case you didn’t know), would ever be a horrible choice to adapt a cherished novel to the big screen.  Going forward, I will not be so naïve.  In it’s original form, The Lovely Bones, as delicately told by author, Alice Sebold, is a shockingly honest account of what one seemingly happy family endures after the death of their eldest daughter.  Its scope reaches …
Quick Tip by . January 04, 2012
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Awful. But what finally ultimately ruined it was the total misuse of the final song (This Mortal Coil's Song to the Siren is not a happy song, it is the most powerful love-tease song in English; inappropriate doesn't begin to cover it).
review by . April 30, 2010
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Fails As A Study of Emotional Burden
   Mainstream fans would remember Pater Jackson for his critically acclaimed “Lord of the Rings Trilogy” and “King Kong” while old-school horror fans may remember him for “Dead Alive”. It would only be natural to have high expectations for any Peter Jackson directed film because well…he does have a good resume. Well, Jackson has made successes with movies about monsters, beasts and even blood and gore; this time around, Jackson tries his hand …
review by . April 19, 2011
   Death is a funny thing. Well, not really. I guess what I'm trying to say is that sometimes the way people, living people, think about death may not leave you with the best taste in your mouth for what your thoughts might be on the subject. I do not mean this in a suicidal way, but from a creative stand point. Take film and literature. Storytellers in both mediums have been telling various stories about life and death for hundreds of years. We have stories about the after life, stories …
review by . January 16, 2010
Good IF you haven't read the book
As the story opens, the narrator, 14-year old Susie, tells us she was murdered. We then see a cringe-worthy scene (that doesn't actually show any violence) and Susie leaves earth for "the in-between;" a nice place, but not quite heaven. She watches her family as they cope with her death and the years pass.       I liked the book a lot, which is odd considering it's about a girl who is horrifically killed by a pervert. Except for that one scene, however, the book was …
review by . April 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Stanley Tucci, without a doubt     Cons: not enough to really dis it     The Bottom Line:   "I'd like to think it's all_a_dream   Someone please come and rescue me   Don't want to see my_family_torn   Left me with a soul without my lovely bones"  ~Josh Todd     The Lovely Bones, directed by Peter Jackson, was a surreal trip, similar to What Dreams May Come, but not nearly as good.   …
review by . March 25, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Death is a funny thing. Well, not really. I guess what I'm trying to say is that sometimes the way people, living people, think about death may not leave you with the best taste in your mouth for what your thoughts might be on the subject. I do not mean this in a suicidal way, but from a creative stand point. Take film and literature. Storytellers in both mediums have been telling various stories about life and death for hundreds of years. We have stories about the after life, stories about …
review by . May 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
THE LOVELY BONES is a quiet novel about horrendous events described eloquently and with spiritual insights by author Alice Sebold. While the book, being a rather introspective version of the murder of a young lass, would be difficult to translate to film, Peter Jackson (with a screenplay adaptation by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Jackson himself) should call this version an idea inspired by Sebold's book. If desiring a reenactment of the novel is the viewer's desire, skip this film, but if simply …
Quick Tip by . June 24, 2010
A fairly good adaptation of a brilliant novel. Read the book first.
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


The Lovely Bones is a 2009 film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Alice Sebold. The film was directed by Peter Jackson and stars Saoirse Ronan as the protagonist Susie Salmon along with Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz as her parents, Jack and Abigail Salmon respectively.

Jackson and his producer partners acquired the rights independently and developed a script on their own, later selling it to DreamWorks. Production began in October 2007 in New Zealand and Pennsylvania. Paramount became a sole distributor a year later when they split with DreamWorks. The film's trailer was released on August 4, 2009.


Susie Salmon, a 14-year-old girl who is murdered in the first chapter, and narrates the novel from heaven.
Jack Salmon, her father, who works for an insurance agency in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.
Abigail Salmon, her mother, whose growing family frustrates her youthful dreams and later has an affair with Detective Len Fenerman.
Lindsey Salmon, Susie's sister, a year younger than she is, thought of as the smartest.
Buckley Salmon, Susie's brother, is ten years younger than she is. His unplanned birth forced Abigail to cancel her plans for a teaching career. He sometimes sees Susie while she watches him in her heaven.
Grandma Lynn, Abigail's mother, an eccentric alcoholic who comes to live with her son-in-law and grandchildren after her daughter leaves.
George Harvey, the ...
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Director: Peter Jackson
DVD Release Date: April 20, 2010
Runtime: 136 minutes
Studio: Paramount
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