The Lovely Bones (2009)

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, Michael Imperioli, Rose McIver, Reece Ritchie

Directed by: Peter Jackson

Rating: 1 2 and a half

Mark Wahlberg and Saoirse Ronan in Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones

'My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.'

So begins Alice Sebold's book club classic, The Lovely Bones. Crisp, clear and matter of fact, it sets the tone for Susie's narration as she tells the story of her life after death.

The Lovely Bones The Movie, however, begins with a meandering voiceover about childhood memories and a lonely penguin stuck in a snow globe. We've five minutes of boogly-eyed child to get through before we get to 'My name was Salmon.' It was the laudable lack of sentiment that made the somewhat odd novel so arresting and moving; piling on the goo so early in the film doesn't seem a good idea.

Like the poor penguin, Susie Salmon is trapped in a perfect world, a trippy purgatory suspended between earth, heaven and hell, unable to let go of her mortal coil. Powerless to intervene, she watches life below continue without her, as her family struggle to cope with the after effects of her disappearance and death.

Susan Sarandon is superb in The Lovely Bones

While desperate father Jack (Mark Wahlberg) will not abandon the search for her killer, mother Abigail (Rachel Weisz) heads for the hills, leaving her remaining two children in the dubious care of their chain-smoking, whisky-swigging grandmother (a superb turn from Susan Sarandon, who raises some much needed laughter channelling Ann-Margret in Tommy).

And therein lies the problem with the film: like a suspiciously cheap car from a dodgy dealer, it's created from two parts that don't weld together that well. First we have Susie's heaven, here depicted as a cross between the Technicolor dreamworld of child killers Pauline and Juliet in Peter Jackson's (infinitely superior) Heavenly Creatures and something dreamed up in the imaginarium of Terry Gilliam, all huge balloons, psychedelic landscapes and Warholian backing tracks (although thankfully no dancing policemen).

Then we have the kitchen sink thriller evolving below – and no prizes for guessing which starts to get a bit drippy and boring and which grabs the attention and gets you involved. We don't need a running commentary from beyond the grave - this isn't Desperate Housewives. Fewer teary-eyed teenage monologues and running about in fields, more drunk Grandma, please.

Stanley Tucci as George Harvey in The Lovely Bones

On the plus side, the styling is spot on (you have to pity poor Susie, doomed to spend eternity sporting mustard cord flares and a padded anorak), and there are some great performances, particularly from Stanley Tucci, rendered unrecognisable as Susie's killer, Mr Harvey, the mild-mannered loner with thick-lensed glassed and a comb-over who spends his time making dolls houses. (Why is he not a suspect?! Grissom would never have stood for it…)

The Lovely Bones isn't all bad, therefore. But half of it's bad, and that's a shame. Oh, and Ian would probably add that there are no Orcs in it either. Just in case you were wondering…

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