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"The Lovely Bones" in London

The Auteurs Daily

The Lovely Bones

"The Lovely Bones, which was given its premiere last night at the Royal Film Performance in the presence of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, is a domestic tragedy that unfolds under a mushroom cloud of flamboyantly kitsch special effects," reports Wendy Ide in the London Times. "In many ways Alice Sebold's massively successful metaphysical coming-of-age drama was an unexpected choice of movie for Peter Jackson. After the vast undertaking of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, followed by the exuberant, overgrown B-movie that was King Kong, this sentimental tale of a murdered teenager called Susie Salmon [Saoirse Ronan] watching her grieving family from a personal afterlife seems intimate by comparison." Two out of five stars.

"How does one make a PG-certificate film about the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl?" asks the Guardian's Xan Brooks before answering that the film "leaves the murder unseen and the rape unmentioned.... It's not that The Lovely Bones is a bad movie, exactly. It is handsomely made and strongly acted, while its woozy, lullaby ambience recalls Jackson's work on the brilliant Heavenly Creatures." But "Sebold's novel was not scared to look the central horror in the face. This ensured that it at least part earned its subsequent flights into the ether. The screen version, by contrast, is so infuriatingly coy, and so desperate to preserve the modesty of its soulful victim that it amounts to an ongoing clean-up operation." Two out of five stars.

Yes, "Jackson softens the edges of both the initial tragedy and its fallout among Susie's family," writes Dave Calhoun in Time Out London. "But that's not the main fault of the film. The real let-down is its heavy reliance on overblown special-effects sequences to represent the celestial limbo where Susie resides immediately after death. Coming across like Salvador Dalí was commissioned to represent Middle Earth for the New Zealand tourist board, these scenes dominate the film to such an extent that you begin to doubt that Jackson has much concern for the real family disaster at the film's heart. [Mark] Wahlberg, [Rachel] Weisz and [Rose] McIver are all sidelined in favour of the magic of the animator's hard drive." Two out of five stars.

Variety's Todd McCarthy: "Instead of having the late Susie Salmon occupy a little perch in an abstract heavenly gazebo from which she can peer down upon her family and anyone else - all that is really necessary from a narrative point of view - the director has indulged his whims to create constantly shifting backdrops depicting an afterlife evocative of The Sound of Music or The Wizard of Oz one moment, The Little Prince or Teletubbies the next. It's a shame, because the first half-hour or so suggests that Jackson, had he taken a vow to keep it real and use not a single visual effect, still has it in him to relate a human story in a direct, vibrant manner."

"This was never going to be an easy story to film," writes the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycut. "Using the same characters and many events, Jackson and his team tell a fundamentally different story. It's one that is not without its tension, humor and compelling details. But it's also a simpler, more button-pushing tale that misses the joy and heartbreak of the original."

Notes Screen's Mike Goodridge: "Paramount is putting the film out in limited release in the US on Dec 11 before going wide on Jan 15; aside from Australia and New Zealand which open on Dec 26, the rest of the world starts releasing from Jan onwards to capitalise on inevitable awards buzz."

At the Playlist, Kevin Jagernauth rounds up news on Jackson's next two projects, both of them capital-B Big. Shooting on The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, the 3D extravaganza he's working on with Steven Spielberg is complete and now they're looking at "two years worth of post-production and animation." Meantime, the screenplay for the first part of the two-part adaptation of The Hobbit that Jackson's working on with Guillermo del Toro is finished and "he along with Del Toro, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens are currently at work on the second part."

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