Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Mark Walhberg, Rachel Weisz, Saoirse Ronan, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci
Directed by Peter Jackson
Distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment
Let me start off by saying that I have never read the best selling novel by Alice Sebold that this film is based upon so have nothing to compare this film version of The Lovely Bones to. As a result I’ll be reviewing this film only on its own merits. That being said … wow! What an incredible movie! Not perfect, mind you, but still pretty damned good.
The Lovely Bones is the story of fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon (Ronan), an everyday girl with a loving family who by all rights should have lived a very long and happy life. Unfortunately one of her neighbors, George Harvey (Tucci, who turns in a remarkably evil performance), has other plans. In Susie’s world George is the monster under the bed or in the closet. A person who kills females of any age with no remorse just for his own evil and sick satisfaction.
One day while following her home from school, George coaxes Susie into his underground lair by promising her that she’ll be the first one to try out his new and special place for the local kids to hang out. Of course once she’s there, things go horribly awry, and our little protagonist vanishes from the lives of everyone who loves her.
From there Susie finds herself in another world, a purgatory of sorts, where she befriends the equally as lost soul Holly (Nikki SooHoo), who tries to convince her that they both need to let go and move on. But Susie has other plans for the moment. Plans that involve putting a stop to the deadly menace lurking about her home who’s been casting more than just your average evil eye on her sister.
The Lovely Bones does a number of things right. The acting for the most part is as solid as it comes, the special effects are stunning, and the sound design, sets, and music are spot on for a film supposed to be taking place in the Seventies. It’s quite an illusion. Of special mention is Stanley Tucci’s portrayal of Harvey, which is one of the most brilliantly frightening performances of the year. Every second he’s on screen it’s as if all the air has been sucked out of the room you’re in. The words creepy and unnerving don’t even begin to convey the true sense of dread one feels while he’s around. And Sarandon as Susie’s grandma is a hoot, providing some much needed comic relief.
So what holds this flick back from being perfect, you ask? Two things: pacing issues and the really wooden performance of Nikki SooHoo as Susie’s spirit guide. Though she gets more right than she does wrong, SooHoo completely snaps you out of the film on several occasions due to her delivery of some pretty stilted dialogue. And here we thought Walhberg was going to be the problem. (Sorry, Mark, we still haven’t forgiven you for The Planet of the Apes!) There are scenes in the movie that go on for too long, and that makes The Lovely Bones feel much longer than it is. Thankfully these nagging trouble spots are on the infrequent side of the fence. Peter, we love you as a director, but not everything has to be so epic. We don’t need to learn every nuance of a character or see every detail in a scene. If this flick was about ten minutes shorter, it’d be pretty damned close to perfect.
If you’re wondering which package to get, DVD or Blu-ray, the answer is pretty simple — if you have the tech, Blu-ray is easily the way to go. In terms of picture quality I’ve yet to see anything else on Blu-ray as good as this. Paramount’s 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer is vibrant, sharp, and leaps off of the screen, and the DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack does nothing but complement this meaty sensory feast. Incredible stuff.
Now for the truly bad part for DVD owners. In terms of special features you get nothing. Not a single solitary thing. I know. It sucks, especially because the Blu-ray is home to an entire extra disc’s worth of extras. Speaking of which …
Things kick off on the disc with a quick introduction by Jackson, and from there we’re treated to the nearly three-hour long feature Filming The Lovely Bones. Thankfully this mammoth sized extra is broken down into three parts — “USA Principal Photography”, which clocks in at around an hour and a half; “New Zealand Principal Photography”, which runs about an hour; and wrapping things up is a segment on the “Visual Effects Photography” that comes in at nearly half an hour. Jackson guides you through the lion’s share of the goodies here via voice-over narration, and thank god for that because honestly? The amount of stuff covered here on Disc 2 is overwhelming. If I attempted to walk you through all the goodies present and accounted for, I’d be sitting here for the better part of the day. This is far and away the most extensive look at the filmmaking process of a single feature I’ve ever seen. So much so in fact that anything else, even a commentary track, would come off as overkill. You will be floored, and if you’re a fan, this will be your rendition of what Heaven looks like.
Simply put, The Lovely Bones is nothing short of one of the absolute must-buy Blu-ray packages of the year. It’s both a technical achievement and one hell of a good time. Take the ride. Be intoxicated by its visual goodness and encyclopedic coverage. Do not miss this one.
Special Features (available on Blu-ray only)
- USA Principal Photography
- New Zealand Principal Photography
- Visual Effects Photography
4 out of 5
5 out of 5