Who’s In It: Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Rose McIver, Susan Sarandon, Michael Imperioli, Nikki SooHoo
The Basics: Cute little Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), a 14-year-old girl preoccupied by photography and boys, is brutally killed by a creepy neighbor (Stanley Tucci) in 1970s suburbia. As her family struggles in the wake of the murder, Susie watches from an otherworldly realm between Earth and heaven while coming to terms with death and pining over Ray Singh, the classmate she’d been majorly crushing on. Meanwhile, her father Jack (Mark Wahlberg) becomes so obsessed with finding Susie’s killer that his marriage disintegrates and he finds himself on a dangerous collision course with the murderer. Based on Alice Sebold's best-selling novel.
What’s The Deal: If you’re the kind of person who’s already terrified of serial killers and child molesters in real life, The Lovely Bones is going to make you want to sleep with the lights on. Do you have young children, too? Forget about it. You don’t need this kind of entertainment in your life, unless you really want to see a young girl slowly realize that she’s trapped in an underground hatch with a creepy pedophile with no way out. Or worse, watch her revisit the grisly moment repeatedly in the afterlife and eventually feel better about the entire situation because she finally gets to have her first kiss. If all of that sounds just fine to you, then by all means, proceed with this well-meaning but off the mark and slightly disturbing adaptation.
Susie Salmon’s Afterlife, Courtesy of Windows XP: You’d think that the man who brought The Shire and King Kong to life (and won Oscars for it) could make CG magic in his sleep. Sadly, no. Susie’s dreamworld is surprisingly sparse and overly symbolic, a place where memories and events happening in the real world transform into literal landscapes in front of her eyes. Think What Dreams May Come meets Windows XP. This green-screen wonderland is also where Susie meets her fellow undead friend, a perky Asian girl named Holly (Nikki SooHoo, the perky Asian girl from Stick It) who seems way too jazzed to be there.
We Want Justice, Not Teen Angst: Contrary to what you want her to do (i.e. help her dad nab the killer from beyond the grave, or use supernatural forces to inflict revenge upon Stanley Tucci, or do something, anything, with herself), Susie spends her time wandering around the afterlife mooning over cutie Ray Singh and walking through metaphorical houses and gazebos, a completely passive protagonist. By the time a gaggle of super happy fellow murder victims hopscotch their way through a field of gold on their way to heaven, you wonder when Susie’s going to go, “Wait a second, I should really go bring my murderer to justice first, don’t you think?” Instead, she returns to Earth to fulfill a silly 14-year-old girl fantasy in what is the dumbest reason for hanging on in the history of spirits-with-unfinished-business movies.
Look For Supporting Turns By: Susan Sarandon as Susie’s alcoholic, ‘70s-fab cougar grandma and Kiwi actress Rose McIver as Susie’s younger sister, who ages believably from 11-year-old to her twenties during the course of the film. Tweener parents might also recognize pop singer AJ Michalka in a small role, while Tom McCarthy’s cameo as Susie’s stuffy principal sets up her insufferable teenage longing by interrupting her first kiss.