If you saw the trailer for The Lovely Bones then there really isn’t much else to say. The greatest incentive for seeing the full feature is to find out if the killer gets his comeuppance or not. However, if you missed the trailer……

Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is a smart and pretty young girl that’s chosen wildlife photography as her future profession and dreams of making out with the cute foreign kid, Ray (Reece Ritchie). As Susie walks home from school one day she is approached by her “skeevy” neighbor, Mr. Harvey (Stanley Tucci). Mr. Harvey invites Susie to check out an amazing underground clubhouse he’s built for the neighborhood kids.

Whoops! This secret hideaway is actually a booby trap where Mr. Harvey tries to have his way with the young teenager and kills her in the process. With no witnesses or pieces of incriminating evidence The Salmon family is devastated while Mr. Harvey is in the clear.

However, Mr. Harvey has a need to worry because Susie hasn’t completely crossed over yet. She observes her murderer as well as her family from the “In-Between”. While her dad, Jack (Mark Wahlberg), continues to hunt for Susie’s abductor Susie is conflicted between trying to help bring down Mr. Harvey or flitter off into blissful realm of heaven. 

I don't know how things went down in the original novel by Alice Sebold since I didn’t read it but the film version of The Lovely Bones wasn’t as fantastic as I had hoped. I mean, overall it was an interesting take on death, retribution and child molestation but there were things about the film that didn’t sit well with me.

The first thing was the two hour running time. Sure, it gave plenty of time to flesh out the characters and allow them to age so I could see how Susie’s disappearance affected them over the years. Then I would be switched over to Susie’s surreal and everchanging fantasy realm where she deals with being dead and confronts the reason for her death.

Constantly switching back and forth from Susie to the real world got tiresome after awhile. I was especially annoyed at how she spent more time lamenting over missing her first date with Ray instead of trying to point her dad in the direction of her killer. Why didn’t she try harder to communicate with her family instead of just wandering around “heaven’s waiting room”?

Then towards the finale she does something that irked me even more. She demonstrates a special ability that she could’ve used to give her family peace and Mr. Harvey hell. Instead she uses it for something sweet yet extremely trivial compared to the more useful ways she could’ve utilized this power. It frustrated me how sometimes she could interact with the living world but other times couldn’t.

I didn’t take it as a good sign when I started to loose interest in Suzie. She is the main character and the main victim of this tragic episode. But by the end I just wanted her to walk into the light so I could go to the bathroom. Luckily, the plight of the Salmon family helped to keep me hanging on. Though I still have a hard time adjusting to Mark Wahlberg playing the supportive and gentle dad type I liked how his character descends into an obsessive state of mind that pushes him to keep on Suzie’s case even after the police have closed it. Susie’s younger sister, Lindsey (Rose McIver), also keeps the flame of justice alive by encouraging her dad to keep fighting. Eventually, Lindsey will take a more hands on approach to finding Susie’s killer as shown in the trailer.

Okay, if you didn’t see the trailer I’m about to spoil something in this paragraph so if you want to be surprised skip this little section here. We know that eventually Jack and Lindsey have a strong suspicion about Mr. Harvey. But how they come to that conclusion was so weak. Jack is looking through the pictures Susie took and lo and behold the last photo is of Mr. Harvey. Gee, he must be the culprit because he’s in the last photo in the collection. Then Lindsey snoops around Mr. Harvey’s house looking for evidence. Again, lo and behold she just happens to find the creaky floorboard where the proof is. If it was me, I would’ve had Susie float through Mr. Harvey’s house, find the loot and whisper it to Lindsey or Jack in a dream. Instead, I’m supposed to just accept that their findings were purely strokes of luck? Oh, please.

Stanley Tucci was so charming and compassionate as Julia Child’s husband in Julie & Julia. In The Lovely Bones, Mr. Tucci becomes “Mr. Harvey”. On the surface Mr. Harvey seems like a mild mannered bachelor. I mean, don’t they all in the beginning? Then we see him sketching his kiddie traps and spying at Susie through his window as he plots to claim his young damsel. Basically, Tucci does a great job playing such a loathsome and terrible character. Like Homer Simpson once said, guys with moustaches usually have something to hide.

Another notable performance is Susan Sarandon as Susie’s hip and happening grandmother. One of the best scenes in the film has grandma come in to help around the house as the family grieves. I swear it was straight outta Absolutely Fabulous so I was loving it and it provided a great moment of comedy in an otherwise dour setting. I swear Ms. Sarandon is just as smoking hot now as she was back her Rocky Horror Picture Show days.

When Susie arrives in the “In-Between” she meets another girl named “Holly”, played by Nikki Soohoo. She’s just so cute and perky I had to mention her. It was admirable to watch Holly try to help Susie break away from her life and embrace her afterlife. But of course, it takes Susie awhile to come around. Like and hour and a half to come around which in the story’s timeframe equates to years.

I love Rachel Weisz. Unfortunately, there isn’t much for her to do in this story. She laughs, she nurtures, she cries, she gets depressed and then she leaves for Santa Rosa and doesn’t reappear until the end of the movie. I respect that was the role Susie’s mother took in the story but as a Weisz fan it felt lame not to have more of her in it.

My nutshell verdict is that The Lovely Bones is a lovely film directed by the lovely Peter Jackson and starring a lovely cast. But the story seemed to drag on a little too long thanks to the extended stays in the colorful hereafter. I appreciate the film’s subject matter because child abduction and molestation is something that we all need to be aware of. And how much more tragic is it when it’s revealed that the culprit is a family member, a trusted friend or a kindly neighbor?

But, overall, The Lovely Bones was okay but I would’ve preferred it thirty minutes shorter and with less whining / more action from Susie. I didn’t leave the theater fulfilled and sorta wished I rented it instead. Sorry, Mr. Jackson. I still love you and I eagerly await your next project. Hopefully, it will involve hobbits or rabid animals.

Rhymes With: What Dreams May Come (1998), The Orphanage / El Orfanato (2007), The Devil’s Backbone / El Espinazo Del Diablo (2001), Gothika (2003)