The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones on Blu-ray disc

Peter Jackson is back, and we're glad.

The director of such cinematic masterpieces as The Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong started his career with smaller, imaginative films. The Lovely Bones is a much smaller movie than LOTR or Kong, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth a look.

In fact, it reminds this reviewer of the films of Stanley Kubrick, in that it's as much an experience as it is a motion picture. In this case, it's an emotional experience, and one that works very well. Not a happy film, mind you, but one that may certainly have an effect on you.

The story itself, based on a novel by Alice Sebold, is heartbreaking. Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan, who lights up the screen), is a typical 14 year old girl growing up in Pennsylvania of the 1970's. Except she never gets to grow up – near the beginning of the film, she's murdered by a neighbor (a chilling Stanley Tucci) and tells us the rest of the story from her "in-between place," not quite heaven but definitely not Earth. She appears to be stuck there until she lets go of her life and her family and moves on, and during this time we see how the death of this charming little girl affects her family.

The story unfolds giving the audience two basic storylines: Susie's journey, helped by a kind of mentor who calls herself Holly (Nikki SooHoo), and the earthbound story of her family in the aftermath of such a devastating event.

We're not going to get into it because it doesn't really translate to a review and we don't want to risk spoiling it. Our advice is that you experience this movie yourself. You may love it or hate it, but you will remember it and you will think about it.

Perhaps, over time, it'll become like one of our reviewers finds A Clockwork Orange (though there's really nothing in common between the films other than them being "experiences), in that with subsequent viewings you not only see new things but things you've seen for years take on new and different meanings because of the added life experience you bring to the table.

We'll see. This particular reviewer wouldn't be surprised and plans to watch The Lovely Bones again very soon.

The film features excellent performances from all of its cast, particularly the wonderful Ronan, but also Tucci, Mark Walhberg and Rachel Weisz (as Susie's parents), and Rose McIver as Susie's younger sister who turns out to be a powerful force for good.

You might expect spectacular special effects from a Peter Jackson film, even a comparatively small one such as this, and you'd be right. The whole visual look is rich and gorgeous and the CG work is outstanding.

Obviously, The Lovely Bones is recommended highly.

And of course the best way to watch a visual feast such as this is on Blu-ray and Paramount Home Entertainment has not disappointed us. The picture, 1080p at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, is very rich, colorful and detailed. The effects shots, especially the ones featuring the lovely landscapes of New Zealand are lovely, indeed. The New Zealand locations make us pine for a better, extended version of Lord of the Rings on Blu-ray. Colors are a little over-rich in places, but this appears to be a deliberate artistic decision on the part of the filmmakers and this reviewer is certainly not about to second guess the great Mr. Jackson and his team.

Audio, which is dts HD Master Audio, is very fine as well. This movie isn't the kind of aural experience you get with Kong or Rings but it uses the channels very nicely and the sound fills the room appropriately and the quality of the sound is very good. Unlike the video, this isn't really a reference audio track for showing off your home theater, but it doesn't need to be.

There's an entire second disc of extras that includes a fascinating "making of" documentary – and that's about it. What makes this "making of" so fascinating is the way they've laid it out. You start with Peter Jackson introducing the concept (though he refers to the release as "DVD", which it is undoubtedly but of course not exclusively) – which is basically of being a fly on the wall during the production – and then follow the shooting from Day One in Pennsylvania, through the weeks in New Zealand finishing the principal photography and then through the weeks of effects photography that followed later. It works really well and gives you a great look, not only at what it's like to be on the set of a major motion picture but also at how Peter Jackson and his crew work.

Disappointing is the lack of a look at the opticals. We see plenty of blue screens during the feature, but not as much of the final composites – or the in-between processes – as we'd have liked. We realize that CG work usually translates into sequences of people in front of computers talking about and showing their work, which can get a bit stale, but we'd have liked to have seen more than what we got, especially since the features are in HD and look great on a big screen.

That said, full marks are given to the timeline-based "making of" feature.

The Lovely Bones didn't seem to make much of an impact on the box office when it came out and that's truly a shame. It's an excellent movie, an emotional experience featuring wonderful performances, a great look, fantastic visuals – and a story that somehow puts its hooks into you and makes you think about it long after the video screen has been turned off.

The Lovely Bones, from Paramount Home Entertainment
130 min. 1080p widescreen (2.35:1), dts HD Master Audio
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Saoirse Ronan, Michael Imperioli
Written by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson, Directed by Peter Jackson

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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