Alice Sebold's novel "The Lovely Bones" is told from the viewpoint of a young girl, savagely attacked and murdered, who lingers in an afterworld to observe the efforts of her family to find the person who committed the heinous crime.
Peter Jackson's film version of the best-selling book fails to capture the flow of the writing and instead feels like every other chapter was left out. Instead of a seamless story of death and salvation, Jackson's work is a disjointed series of scenes held tenuously together by a few solid acting efforts.
Life in suburban Pennsylvania in the '70s seems perfect for teenager Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan). Her biggest worry is how to get her parents to develop the box full of film she's shot.
She is blissfully unaware of the sexual predator who lives across the street. George Harvey (Stanley Tucci) lures the teen into a trap, murders her and hides the body. Susie watches from a limbo world while the pain and confusion that unfolds destroys her family.
Jackson's film is at its best when focused on the land of the living, especially the grieving parents (Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz). The father becomes so obsessed with finding his daughter's killer he doesn't see that his wife is falling apart emotionally.
Tucci's performance will make your skin crawl -- not because he's such an over-the-top killer, but because he's the kind of almost-invisible predator who can exist in any neighborhood.
Jackson's big problem comes when he switches to Susie's world. The director's blend of huge special effects and odd imagery play like outtakes from a music video. Each trip to see Susie's perspective disrupts the storyline.
There's also a peculiar performance by Susan Sarandon as Grandma Lynn. The outlandish nature of the character is more like an escapee from an episode of "Absolutely Fabulous" than a serious part of this story. Just like the switches to Susie's world, Sarandon's performance disrupts the production's flow.
In the end, the solid moments of "The Lovely Bones" are hurt by Jackson's inability to blend the two worlds. It leaves the movie disjointed and disappointing.
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at email@example.com or (559) 441-6355. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.