Monday, January 4, 2010

Too much going on in this flick

"The Lovely Bones"
Two stars

By Gary Buiso

More is less in Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones,” a moving story that manages to get lost in a technicolor CGI shuffle.

Based on the 2002 novel by Alice Sebold, the story is told through the perspective of Susie Salmon, a murdered 14-year-old struggling to come to terms with her brutal fate at the hands of her serial-killer neighbor.

The film is at its best at its unfolding, which focuses on the girl’s small Pennsylvania family. But Jackson, of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, can’t resist shifting gears and jettisoning the action to an effects-heavy alternate universe, where the girl contemplates her fate and the actions of the living. But this is hardly a captivating Middle-earth; Jackson’s hodgepodge of a heaven is cheesy and inconsistent with the rest of the film, which would have succeeded as a taut thriller.

As Susie, Saoirse Ronan is a blue-eyed revelation, and the killer, played by Stanley Tucci, brings an explosive creepiness to his role. But more could have been done with the fine cast, including the girl’s parents, played by Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz, whose scenes together are too brief to generate real chemistry. As a well-appointed drunkard, Susan Sarandon strikes a comedic tone with her co-stars that rings only as dissonant.

Ultimately, it’s Jackson’s bravura that gets the better of him. Sometimes, a great story doesn’t have to be told on a grand scale.

"The Lovely Bones." Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense violence, some disturbing images and brief strong language. 135 minutes. With Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Rose McIver, and Stanley Tucci.


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