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Movie Review

The Lovely Bones also known as “Lovely Bone,” “Lovely Bones,” “Desde mi cielo,” “Amabili resti,” “Cennetimden Bakarken,” “Flickan från ovan,” “In meinem Himmel,” “Oma taivas,” “Pevné pouto,” “Um Olhar do Paraíso,” “V mojih nebesih,” “Visto do Céu”

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving disturbing violent content and images, and some language.

Reviewed by: Thaisha Geiger
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Genre:
Crime Horror Thriller Fantasy Drama Adaptation
Length:
2 hr. 15 min.
Year of Release:
2009
USA Release:
December 11, 2009 (3 theaters—NYC/LA)
January 15, 2010 (wide—2,400+ theaters)
DVD: April 20, 2010
Copyright, Dreamworks Pictures / Paramount Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Dreamworks Pictures / Paramount Pictures Copyright, Dreamworks Pictures / Paramount Pictures Copyright, Dreamworks Pictures / Paramount Pictures Copyright, Dreamworks Pictures / Paramount Pictures Copyright, Dreamworks Pictures / Paramount Pictures Copyright, Dreamworks Pictures / Paramount Pictures Copyright, Dreamworks Pictures / Paramount Pictures Copyright, Dreamworks Pictures / Paramount Pictures Copyright, Dreamworks Pictures / Paramount Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Dreamworks Pictures / Paramount Pictures

Sin

Murder

Rape victims stories

Shame and Rape

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

ORIGIN OF BAD—How did bad things come about? Answer

Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer


Death

ETERNAL LIFE—What does the Bible say about it? Answer

How can I be sure of my salvation? Answer


REVENGE—Love replaces hatred—former israeli soldier and an ex-PLO fighter prove peace is possible-but only with Jesus


Final judgment

Eternal death in the Bible

Is there an actual place called “Hell”? Answer

Why was Hell made? Answer

Is there anyone in Hell today? Answer

Will there literally be a burning fire in Hell? Answer

What should you be willing to do to stay out of Hell? Answer

How can a God of love send anybody to Hell? Answer

What if I don’t believe in Hell? Answer

THE GOOD NEWS—How to be saved from Hell. Answer


Is Jesus Christ the answer to your questions?
Discover the good news that Jesus Christ offers
God’s Story Online home
Do you understand God’s Story? Take a multimedia journey through the Bible, from Creation to eternity. Hear and read an exciting summary of the Bible’s most important records, in chronological order.
Are you going to Heaven?
Are you going to Heaven? Are you SURE you know the answer this extremely important question? Or have you made some common wrong assumptions? Find out now!

Are you good enough to get to Heaven? Answer


GUILT—How can I be and feel forgiven? Answer

GUILT—If God forgives me every time I ask, why do I still feel so guilty? Answer

Featuring: Saoirse Ronan (Susie Salmon), Mark Wahlberg (Jack Salmon), Rachel Weisz (Abigail Salmon), Stanley Tucci (George Harvey), Susan Sarandon (Grandma Lynn), Amanda Michalka (Clarissa), Jake Abel (Brian Nelson), Rose McIver (Lindsey Salmon), Michael Imperioli (Len Fenerman), [more]
Director: Peter Jackson
Producer: WingNut Films, DreamWorks SKG, Film4, Key Creatives, Marc Ashton, Philippa Boyens, Anne Bruning, Carolynne Cunningham, Peter Jackson, Ken Kamins, Aimée Peyronnet, Tessa Ross, Steven Spielberg, Fran Walsh, James Wilson
Distributor: Dreamworks Pictures / Paramount Pictures

“The story of a life and everything that came after.”

This film is based on the best-selling novel by Alice Sebold.

Susie Salmon (an astounding Saoirse Ronan) is a typical fourteen year old. She loves taking pictures with her new camera, going to school, and silently watching her secret crush. All that changes when her neighbor lures her into seeing a new underground clubhouse he’s supposedly built for the neighborhood kids. After her rape and murder, Susie is stuck in an “in-between” of heaven and hell where she watches her family mourn her death and try to move on with their lives.

“The Lovely Bones” aims to cover too much in its over two-hour run, ultimately creating a disjointed, emotionless mess. While the primary plot should be Susie’s murder and afterlife, the film also deals with the depraved mind of the killer, marital issues, and Susie’s self-awakening and growth. While rape and murder are heavy and traumatic enough, the film also tries to illicit laughs from its audience with comedic one liners from the free-spirited grandma (a magnificent Susan Sarandon). It simply does not feel right to laugh when the evil killer and his perverse thoughts fill the subsequent scenes. It’s also rather odd and disturbing that Susie’s portrayed as better off dead, since she somehow found herself and grew as a person during her time in the “in-between.” Her killer’s evil deeds are not frowned upon enough and is placed on the back burner as she watches her family move on with their lives and even still observes her crush.

Some tighter editing would have benefited the film. The first forty-minute segment is rather well-paced and suspenseful. Director Peter Jackson did a phenomenal job in building the suspense from the slow revelation of the killer to his luring Susie into the death trap. I was at the edge of my seat as Susie slowly realizes she should not have taken his invitation. The murder occurs off screen, but still does not lessen the suspense. This film refreshingly demonstrates that movies do not have to have excessive amounts of gore or blood to build suspense; rather, having the imagination fill in the blanks can be just as effective.

“The Lovely Bones” loses its pace in the middle as massive amounts of time is spent showing the viewer CGI eye candy in Susie’s “in-between” world. While the CGI effects are great, they eventually became a waste of time since they never emotionally enhance or strengthen the film. While time is nonexistent in this realm, it certainly exists for the audience. The latter portion of the film creates teasing moments of suspense and quite a lackluster ending which should have been rewritten for the film to end with a stronger bang.

Objectionable Content

The film is relatively low on the offensive content. There are only about 2 uses of profanity, with one “f” word and 1 SOB. No sexual content is shown, but it is implied that young couples go off to the corn field to have sex, while the killer watches them. A sketch of breasts is shown; there are about three kissing scenes, but they are all tastefully done. The grandma is shown to excessively drink and smoke. While she does call alcohol her medicine, she is never shown drunk. In one scene, she asks Susie if she’s been kissed yet, and then tells her granddaughter that her first kiss was with a grown man.

The depicted violence is relatively mild. There is one rather graphic scene of a father getting beaten by a young man. While Susie’s murder does occur off screen, it’s heavily implied with bloody floors, clothes, and bags shown. Some dead bodies are shown floating in different bodies of water.

The film takes place in the 1970s when kidnapping wasn’t as publicized or common as it is today. In general, people were more trusting of their neighbors. While we should definitely teach our children to never go off with those whom they do not know and to use caution at all times; it’s also important to teach them to not be overly afraid of those who can do us harm (Luke 12:4).

Susie’s killer would often sit, fiddling with a charm of her bracelet while he stared at the chest which stored her body. In her narrative, Susie said that he had begun to feel safe and soon began getting the itch to kill again. There are similar killers and other criminals who believe their craftiness have created the perfect crime. This correlates with Isaiah 29:15:

“Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?”

While their crimes might indeed go unsolved or undetected in this world, there will be absolutely no escaping the ultimate judgment when one dies. Hebrews 4:13 states:

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

I personally do not recommend “The Lovely Bones.” The film does not have any soul to it, and it sadly wasted the enormous talent of the cast with its poor script and lack of strong direction. While the CGI is well-made, audiences are well past the age where simply seeing it on the screen is rewarding. Along with technology, some heart or moral lesson is needed to give films a sense of purpose. Lacking any universal moral, “The Lovely Bones” is better skipped, since finding one’s self in some stage of an “in-between” is definitely not true.

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—I have been reviewing movies from a conservative and Christian perspective for over 5 years now, and rarely have I ever disagreed with anyone more about a movie. “The Lovely Bones” is without a doubt one of the best movies of the year, with an incredibly important message about family, protecting your kids and the ramifications of an extremely difficult subject that is rarely talked about. The story is about a young girl who is assaulted and murdered who goes up to Heaven, but before she walks through the pearly gates, she wants to do one last thing. She wants to see justice brought to her killer.

The story unfolds as she is watching her family back on Earth as they go through the emotional heartbreak and desire for justice. The way they handle the subject of child assault is extremely hard to handle but so is the act as a whole. It is supposed to be difficult, it is supposed to make you angry and it is supposed to make you want to vomit. This movie paints an idea of Heaven as seen through the eyes of a CHILD not an adult, which really is pretty amazing.

The movies is NOT NEW AGE as the movie “What Dreams May Come.” I interviewed the director and writer of “What Dreams May Come,” and they are completely forthright about their ideas of religion and the agenda of the movie.

“The Lovely Bones” is completely not New Age at all. The movie is hard to handle, a bit slow moving at times, but always gripping. The movie is beautiful and amazingly directly by Peter Jackson who also directed “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. The acting is superb, and the movie is nothing less than incredible. (I do NOT recommend this movie to kids or teens, as the subject matter is very hard to handle. However, it is done very tastefully and mean to show you the ramifications of the actions.) There is little violence, very little bad language and one slight sexual reference.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—John Kehrli, age 35 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—I couldn’t agree with the reviewer more. “The Lovely Bones” was just a mess. While I am a fan of the book, I expected much more from this movie and director. The cast is absolutely wonderful, but are given table scraps to work with. Nothing felt connected, and I found myself staring off into space throughout portions of the movie. It is a visually stunning movie, but even the most stunning effects can’t help this film recover from it’s lackluster script. Read the book, give the movie a miss.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Monique, age 30 (USA)
Neutral—This film was artistically well done. Yes, the story did move very slowly in that in-between world but the scenes were well done and there are some correlations to the real world. It completely kept my interest and I did appreciate the fact that some scenes were left to the imagination without all the gore and sounds. The whole story line in itself is disturbing and yet it was very believable. There are unfortunately many people that give themselves over in their evil desires and do not care about the destruction they leave behind. I have heard that the movie leaves out many parts of the book which is a good thing. Apparently the book does have more emphasis on immoral behavior than the movie, which was fine for me! I don’t enjoy all the gratuitous sex and violence that is a regular part of today’s movies.

The family dynamics are beautiful in this film and also very believable. The husband and wife go through many struggles and yet in the movie stay true to each other and do not break their vows. The mother-in-law character added humor. This was pretty much the only lighthearted part in the film. The scenes when the girl was was growing up should have brought joy. But the knowledge that something bad was going to happen stifled this joy.

Yet I did not go away depressed because of the message I received: when you forgive someone, you actually release yourself from the clutches of that person. I did feel that once the family was able to do that, they could live their lives in peace.

If you are looking at this movie as pure fantasy then you will appreciate the film. For a believer we know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. There is no in-between world. One of my favorite movies in high school was Heaven Can Wait. I know my theology, I know what heaven is, and I am thankful that I will be there and there is nothing on Earth worth waiting for. But I do enjoy escape when I am here on Earth and that is what Lovely Bones is: an escape. It is not light-hearted by any means, but it was a good film, and I would recommend it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Joyce, age 47 (USA)
Neutral—I just saw almost 2 hours of this tonight. It’s 2½ hours. Saw it with my mature 14 year old daughter and my 13 year old son. They chose to leave early. It is disturbing in nature. Seemed fairly well done, but I was very distracted by my children’s discomfort to really watch it. It’s not so much that it has graphic violence but implied and creepy violence. Actors were all good. Script was good, but odd. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone light of heart or under 16 or 17. I’ll probably rent it later to catch then end. Just not with the kids.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Dave, age 44 (Canada)
Positive—My daughter tells me the book is much better, but I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It was not easy to be reminded how fast life can change. The imagery was spectacular. I would recommend catching this one in the theatre, not sure it will carry even on the large LCD!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Lynn Stahlecker, age 56 (USA)
Positive—This is the best movie I’ve seen a long time, and I’ll probably watch it over and over again. It made me feel so sad that I wanted to cry several times while watching it, even though movies hardly ever phase me. The in-between was a bit disturbing because it was a lonely “heaven,” without Jesus, but it was a neat way just to have Suzy seeing what was happening back on Earth. The few scenes that are used just to show off the scenery are pretty brief and I didn’t think it dragged on at all. I agree that it wasn’t taken seriously enough that a 14 year old girl was murdered, and I am against things like that being shown in movies, but at the same time movie expressed a respect for the girl and her life and didn’t cheapen life the way other movies do.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Ashley, age 18 (Canada)
Neutral—I was rather disappointed in this movie. Yes, it was very suspenseful, yes it had me at the edge of my seat at times, and yes some of the special effects were great. BUT, it did not turn out as I had hoped. I can not agree that Susie held of from going to heaven because she wanted to see justice brought to her killer. Actually, on the contrary, on the moment she had the chance to possibly stop her killer (or at least warn the guy at the dump about the body in the safe) she was focused on getting that kiss from the boy she liked.

I do believe all evil-doers will face justice in the end. But in this movie, I really didn’t like the way it was done. I would have rather seen justice done upon him in a way that made him realize he couldn’t escape his evil deeds. Overall, I’d say it’s worth seeing once. It’s not a movie I will be buying though.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Troy Mendez, age 35 (USA)
Negative
Negative—I did not read the book, but saw the movie. The movie is all over the place and does not flow well. The scenes bounce back and forth between reality and something that seemed like some sort of drug-induced happy land. I think it could have been a good movie, if not for all the wasted scenes that were in no way connected to the story line. Do not waste any money or time on this awful movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Stef, age 24 (USA)
Negative—“The Lovely Bones” is not for Christians. It portrays the afterlife as completely devoid of God, Jesus, angels, or any semblance of what the Bible says heaven is really like. The girl in the movie is in complete control of her “own heaven,” as if a demi-god. After hanging around her family for a couple of years, she then “chooses” to depart. God is never mentioned at all, even when her parents are grieving. (A complete shut-out for God!)

Guard your hearts against this evil doctrine and pass on this movie. You may be tempted to think the afterlife is really like that… and you would be woefully deceived.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Cathy, age 38 (USA)
Comments from young people
Negative—…I paid a dollar to rent it, and that was too much. This movie is by far the strangest movie I have ever seen in my life. In the beginning of the movie, I found a lot of interest. However, a bit before the half-way mark of the movie, the plot started to go all over the place, with very strange special effects depicting fantasy lands.

As far as moral content goes, I am not sure how to judge it. Normally, violence in films doesn’t bother me at all, but the images shown in this film, well, I found them very disturbing. What is really frustrating is that this film really could have been good, but the execution was terrible. Don’t waste your time with this movie like I did.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 1½
—Caitlin, age 17 (USA)
Comments from non-viewers
I didn’t watch this movie, but I did read the book. I can tell you that if you take the author’s account in the book to be the same as in the movie, it is a warped presentation of Heaven. The main character never meets Jesus in Heaven, but divides her time between Heaven and hanging out just watching her family. In a few instances in the book, and also portrayed in the trailers, Susie becomes a visible apparition to her family, ultimately helping them solve her murder. I wanted to write in because I think this movie is sure to draw parents of children who have been murdered, and it is very dangerous, because it may lead grieving parents to try to communicate with the dead. I recommend reading about the late James Pike, whose son committed suicide. He became obsessed with contacting him through mediums and séances and ultimately resigned as a bishop of the Episcopal Church. …
—Jennifer, age 32 (USA)