Silver Chips Online

Weak "Bones"

An overuse of special effects cracks "The Lovely Bones"

By Jenna Bushnell, Online Features and Humor Editor
January 19, 2010
In an age where special effects and computer-generated graphics dominate the silver screen, it's quite the novelty to see a film shot without the help of fancy visual effects or animation. Where oftentimes technological advancements aid in the way of a film's perception, in "The Lovely Bones," it diminishes the otherwise strong plot and cast. In this case, less would have been significantly more.

Based on the novel by Alice Sebold and set in the 1970s, the plot of "The Lovely Bones" tells an eerily familiar story of a young girl's abduction and murder by an adult pervert. The movie is narrated by Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), an innocent 14-year-old girl who is killed by her neighbor (Stanley Tucci), a depraved sociopath. While the audience is made aware of Susie's murderer from early on, Susie's family and friends dwell on the unsolved murder, which begins to rip the family apart. Susie narrates from a heavenly limbo, where she struggles to cope with her lost life as she watches her loved ones struggle to deal with her death as well.

Director Peter Jackson has previously made a sizable fortune by enhancing his films with awe- inducing graphics and special effects. In "The Lovely Bones," however, he was far too CGI-happy for the film's content. Melodramatic spectacles of Susie's postmortem world weakened the overall plot. While movies such as "Avatar," need to rely heavily on special effects to compensate for a thin plot, "The Lovely Bones" had a solid plot that could have done without the excessive, mesmerizing scenes of Susie in a surreal world with huge rolling balls and crashing ships in bottles.

The overuse of unearthly images detracted from the extremely realistic and powerful acting in this film. Ronan, in her first leading role, played Susie with exceptional consistency and fervor. Thanks to brilliant, wide-eyed acting, the viewer truly empathizes with the plight of her character as she tries to comprehend her untimely death.

Even more notably, Mark Wahlberg is convincing as Susie's dad. Known for playing rougher roles (think "Max Payne" or "Four Brothers"), Walhberg manages to fit the fatherly role wonderfully. The ragtag bachelor convinces the audience to feel the same pain that he does as he searches for his daughter's killer. Together, Ronan and Walhberg's characters epitomize an ideal, yet realistic father-daughter bond, which is ripped apart by the villainous Mr. Harvey.

While most herald advances in computer graphic technology as a blessing for the film industry, this movie proves that progress comes at a price. Had scenes of melodramatic wonder been cut from the film, viewers would have been able to better appreciate the dynamic impact of "The Lovely Bones."

"The Lovely Bones" (135 minutes) is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving disturbing violent content and images, and some language. Now playing in theaters everywhere.

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/9827