Reviewers struggle with Lovely Bones' 'fantasy trappings'

By Alistair Gray

Prior to its release there was much Oscars-hype surrounding Peter Jackson's film The Lovely Bones but early reviews have not all been complimentary, with many critics saying the special effects have been overdone.

The Lovely Bones - an adaptation of Alice Sebold's best selling novel - is about 14 year-old Susie Salmon, who is raped and murdered by her neighbour and watches from heaven as her family struggles to come to grips with her death.

Originally planned for release in March, the film was shelved to give it a better chance at winning an Oscar.

Huffington Post reviewer Marshall Fine said "Jackson's hallucinatory visuals of Susie's heaven are both startling and enthralling: images that seem to melt and blend and morph even as you watch them...

"The script he has written with his Lord of the Rings collaborators Fran Walsh and Phillippa Boyens compresses the story admirably, if occasionally unsatisfyingly."

Another critic to cite the novel's difficulty in being adapted for the big screen was Newsweek's David Ansen who said "By remaining faithful to Sebold's myriad flights of fancy, however he's [Jackson] inadvertently highlighted the book's vulnerabilities.

"When The Lovely Bones loses its grip on you, its momentousness turns into silliness."

Guardian critic Xan Brooks asks whether bringing such a successful novel to the big screen was the problem.

"Might the fault lie with the source novel? Alice Sebold's best-selling book similarly held up Susie Salmon's innocent fancies as a kind of talisman to ward off evil.

"It dared to spin a sentimental fantasy out of a grisly tragedy, offsetting the tang of sulphur with the sweet taste of candyfloss. The difference was that Sebold's novel was not scared to look the central horror in the face."

News Blaze speculated whether Jackson was still in 'Lord of the Rings mode' and described the adaptation as Peter Jackson being "mesmerized by his own surreal fantasy trappings of a theme park afterlife, while the story is secondary with little space to breathe and flow".

Associated Press reviewer David Germain says Jackson is still in "fantasy land" and that he had lost the spark of Seabold's story.

"The spectacle Jackson creates is showmanship, not storytelling, distracting from the mortal drama of regret and heartache he's trying to tell."

The Lovely Bones premieres in Wellington on December 14 at the Embassy Theatre.

Nationwide release is scheduled for December 26.

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