The Lovely Bones

Lovely mess

THE LOVELY BONES (Peter Jackson). 135 minutes. Opens Friday (January 15). For venues, trailers and times, see Movies. Rating: NN

The Lovely Bones should have been squarely in Peter Jackson’s wheelhouse. Instead, the movie he’s made will leave you wondering whether he can ever claw his way out of his digital cocoon.[rssbreak]

On the page, Alice Sebold’s supernaturally tinged study of a family in small-town Pennsylvania coming to terms with the disappearance of a daughter – narrated from the afterlife by the murdered girl – feels like the worldly older sister of Jackson’s 1994 breakout, Heavenly Creatures.

And with his Lord Of The Rings trilogy and underrated King Kong remake, Jackson has certainly demonstrated a knack for capturing powerful emotion in the middle of his swirling, digitally augmented set pieces.

Thus, things seemed to be in place for The Lovely Bones, which he adapted with regular collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. But every creative choice he makes is so completely, stupidly wrong – starting with the lupine contact lenses Stanley Tucci sports as a sinister neighbour and snowballing into a series of other unnecessary tweaks, fixes and shimmering digital enhancements that serve to reduce the actors to stock characters and grind Sebold’s delicate text into paste.

The weirdest thing? Jackson hasn’t done any of this lightly. The Lovely Bones thinks itself an achingly sincere film. But its maker has moved his soul into storage because he needed the space for more post-production equipment.

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