BY MIG WINDOWS
Alice Sebold’s best-selling novel fizzles in this big-budget, confused film directed by Lord of the Rings’ Oscar-winning (really?) director Peter Jackson. The actors, for the most part, look either lost or bored as they go about their half-assed investigation into the murder of Susie Salmon (Saorise Ronan), whose soul is wandering around in the tackiest version of heaven since What Dreams May Come.
True, Stanley Tucci’s impression of Dustin Hoffman playing Stephen Root playing a pedophile is disturbing, but he looked really embarrassed to be there, which is perhaps why he wore contacts, facial hair, a wig, and a mustache. The visual effects in the final scene with his character (I won’t spoil the ending) were so cartoonish I could have sworn they were straight out of The Polar Express.
Perhaps the main flaw with the film is Jackson’s misunderstanding of the book’s tone. Flip-flopping from genre to genre, Jackson spends little time on the character development that made Sebold’s novel a worthy read. Instead he tries to turn the film into an action-packed thriller, where the question is not “whodunit” but rather “when will someone smarten up and notice the obvious pedophile standing near the rose bushes?”
This could easily have been an independent or even a made-for-TV movie. It simply did not need to cost $100 million. In the end, the film’s formula — stunning visuals + action = good movie — may have worked for Lord of the Rings, but, for a drama about the rape and murder of a little girl, it was simply in poor taste.