Lovely Bones, The
PG-13
Entertainment: +1
Acceptability: -3

Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Michael Imperioli, Saoirse Ronan, Nikki SooHoo. Written by Peter Jackson & Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens. Directed by Peter Jackson.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Based on the novel by Alice Sebold, and directed by Oscarģ winner Peter Jackson from a screenplay by Jackson & Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens, The Lovely Bones centers on a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family - and her killer - from a place near heaven. She must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Youíve heard the expression, less is more? Well, evidently director Peter Jackson hasnít. While his Lord of the Rings trilogy were well-told stories, they run on and on. Then he added 84 minutes of reinvention to a classic story about an ape and true love, King Kong. Now, he takes over 120 minutes to relay a story about a 14-year-old murdered girl waiting in a dream-like limbo, forced to watch the activities of her grieving family and the monster serial killer. Itís not written sharply, concisely, or emotionally satisfyingly (bad sentence structure, I realize, but then Iím not paid quite as much as Peter Jackson).

I suppose the creepiest part of the movie, if you like creepy, is Stanley Tucciís Mr. Rogers-like interpretation of a child killer. We are forced to watch him set his trap, a trap that will end a life and ruin others. Because thereís just too much of this kind of tragedy on the nightly news, I found the viewing of a young, trusting girl being tricked and killed unsuitable entertaining fodder. On the other hand, maybe the viewing of this type of horror story will cause parents to be more protective. I just donít like being ďentertainedĒ by such cruelty.

Jackson spends too much of our time and his studioís money depicting a sort of purgatory thatís a mix of this world and the next Ė a Twilight Zone-ish existence that is sometimes dream-like, sometimes nightmarish. After awhile, one gets a little impatient with the illusionary portraits of Jacksonís idea of a forerunner to Heaven. By the way, God is not mentioned, as if any place could be truly Heaven without our Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ is uttered once, but not in prayer. The name of our Savior is used as an expletive for relieving a copís frustration. So much for the Deity in Jacksonís concept of the afterlife.

It is an interesting premise Ė looking down from Heaven upon family and enemies. But whatever parable the filmmakers are attempting is lost on this viewerís psyche due to the excesses and performances.

Rachel Weisz is the best they have here, so what does Jackson do? He takes her out of the story fairly early. Unable to cope with her husbandís obsessive behavior, she runs off, leaving him and her other two children, preferring the simple life of a California fruit picker. That leaves us with Saoirse Ronan, last seen in Atonement last year. Or was it the year before? Alas, sheís just not up to the task of playing a dead child full of conflicting passions, love and hate. Then thereís Marky Mark. Excuse me, thatís Mark Wahlberg. Actually, the actor deserves respect. I always feel that he attempts to do his best. Itís just never enough. Todayís generation of moviemakers thought he could be the new Cary Grant in 2001ís The Truth About Charlie, the remake of Grantís Charade. The actor was left with egg on his face and we got the runner up for worst film of this decade. Wahlberg is like an earnest community theater veteran in a town more renown for its automobile mechanics than thespian hopefuls. And letís not forget Ms. Sarandon, who plays the boozy mother-in-law as if she were in a Saturday Night Live sketch.

With all the heartbreak portrayed on screen, the film doesnít connect emotionally with its audience. Like many gifted filmmakers from the school of Star Wars U, Peter Jackson is more capable of creating CGI creatures than the depicting of flesh-and-blood sensibilities.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: Paramount

Summary
Crude Language: None
Obscene Language: One use of SOB and a couple of minor expletives
Profanity: One profane use of Christís name
Violence: A man is badly beaten with a ball bat; while it does not show the actual torture and killing of a child, it is implied that her body was cut up; we see a bloody sack, presumably filled with the dead body; a man falls from a cliff to his death, the body badly broken up the end of the fall. Blood: Lots of blood in one scene.
Sexual Intercourse: A married couple, still happy before the death of their child, frolics in bed, but the scene does not become graphic.
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: The mother in law smokes, drinks and takes a lot of pills throughout.
Other: None
Running Time: 120 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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