Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by:Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Rachel Weisz, Mark Whalberg, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Amanda Michalka
Released: December 26, 2009
Grade: B-

On a winter afternoon in December 1973, 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Ronan) was walking home from school.  She bumped into George Harvey (Tucci), an odd looking man who had recently moved into a house just up the street.  Susie Salmon was never seen again.

This isn’t a traditional “who done it” movie.  As members of the audience, we know that Susie was murdered and that Mr. Harvey is the man responsible.  The question is – will he be caught?  George has done his best to cover his tracks but Susie’s father, Jack (Wahlberg) is unrelenting in his quest for answers.   He still harbours a faint hope that Susie is still alive and won’t stop until he knows the truth.

There’s someone else who is looking to expose the truth… Susie herself!  She is no longer living but she is yet to move on to heaven.  Susie has found herself in the “in-between”.  Like a ghost, she can subtly communicate with the living world, trying to point them in the direction of her murderer.

I had high expectations given the reputation of Peter Jackson and the alluring trailer.  Sadly, most of the film was a let down.  It feels as if every second page of Alice Sebold’s novel has been ripped out and the writers have somehow tried to reconstruct the story.

Jackson has created a cool fantasy world filled with great special effects but the character development is non-existent.  I had no appreciation for the grief that Susie’s parents were going through.  Her grandmother (played by Susan Sarandon) adds nothing to the story and yet they show her cleaning the house is a silly montage.

The same can be said for Susie’s siblings.  There’s a ludicrous scene late in the film where the sister hesitates about revealing a valuable piece of information.  My first question is why the hesitation?  My second question is why did she change face so quickly?

As the villain, Stanley Tucci (Julie & Julia) delivers the only decent performance.  I still thought he was a touch over the top (he looks like such an obvious creep) but the scene in which he lures Susie into his trap was the film’s best.  It’s creepy and hard to stomach.

With an ending just too convenient to take seriously, The Lovely Bones is the weakest Peter Jackson film I’ve seen to date.