The Lovely Bones

Rated 2.0

Before adding to the pre-existing heap of critical disdain for Peter Jackson’s take on Alice Sebold’s much-adored 2002 novel, is it possible to admit the book might have been a tad overrated? That title alone should’ve been a red flag for trying too hard. But if any director could handle the tale of a teenaged girl watching over her family from the afterlife after being raped and murdered, it ought to be the maker (way back when) of the fancifully morbid Heavenly Creatures. Alas, here’s another case of powerful and unwieldy cinema literalism destroying the delicacy, such as it is, of literature. Jackson’s film, adapted with his regular cohorts Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, is overwrought with tonal incongruities and protracted procedural suspense, suffering greatly from a gratuitous use of special effects and Susan Sarandon. In its way it does honor the book’s prettifying, pseudo-poetic impulses: You’ll be spared such choice moments of Seboldian narration as “I was the mortar, he was the pestle,” but how about a nice scene of other murdered girls frolicking together in a meadow, as if rehearsing some commercial for a fabric softener? Saoirse Ronan gamely plays the unfortunate protagonist, with Rachel Weisz and Mark Wahlberg as her parents, Sarandon as her grandma, Rose McIver as her sister and Stanley Tucci as her killer.