Not so Lovely

Earlier tonight I had the opportunity to see a sneak preview of The Lovely Bones, Peter Jackson’s newest film adapted from the eponymous best selling novel. But enough about that; lets talk about how awesome and important I must be to be chosen for such an exclusive honor.

Alright, fine. For once we won’t talk about how unconsciously badass I am. Lets talk about the movie instead. Bones tells the story of a murdered fourteen year old girl stuck halfway between heaven and earth and how her family copes with their grief/searches for the killer.

It is also an utter mess.

Somehow Jackson thought that the best way to tell this story was to badly ape the relevant elements of What Dreams May Come and Mystic River, and then for good measure throw in a healthy level of New Age, The Alchemist-style babblespeak. Needless to say, it does not work.

Jackson’s afterlife is populated with brutally obvious metaphors and oftentimes just plain poor visual effects. What Dreams May Come may have been boring as shit, but it was damn good looking, artistically and technically. The sloppy, cartoonish effects work here is especially startling coming from a director with such a deservedly high reputation for technical wizardry. There’s a scene here where the little girl runs around on a smallish spherical planetoid that may as well have been directly ripped right out of Super Mario Galaxy. It’s ridiculous looking.

The earthbound stuff fares better, though it’s still not all that good. There’s some genuine suspense to be had here in scenes such as that leading up to the murder, and Stanley Tucci delivers an absolute knockout performance as the killer.

But it’s mostly for naught, as Jackson once again shows the negative propensities he’s displayed more and more of since The Fellowship of the Ring. One is awkwardly beating a joke into the ground, as he does with Susan Sarandon’s character, a hapless grandmother with one liners like “I’m 35, that’s not that old!”. (Sidesplitting.) The other is treating his characters as if they were chess pieces on a board; he moves them this way and that as the plot dictates, has them utter words and undertake actions that serve to take them where they need to be for the story to move along, and not because it’s how they necessarily should actually act as people. Some of the characters behavior in Bones rings achingly hollow. In keeping with such unpredictable behavior this film has a terrible tonal problem, jumping around from suspense to melodrama to silliness and back again

Even throughout his exhausting King Kong remake you usually had the sense that an assured director was behind the scenes pulling the strings, even if he was a self-indulgent one. Bones offers no such assurance. It seems a very wrongly conceptualized project from the start that spun ever further out of control as the creative process progressed. This is a rambling, unfocused, tone deaf and altogether slipshod film.

Peter Jackson, you are much, much better than this. Or at least you used to be.

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