Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones" premiered in London on Tuesday night as the 2009 Royal Film Performance and the English papers and domestic trades have already weighed in on the potential Oscar contender.
Variety's Todd McCarthy was not a fan saying, "the massive success Jackson has enjoyed in the intervening years with his CGI-heavy "The Lord of the Rings" saga (the source of which receives fleeting homage in a bookstore scene here) and "King Kong" has infected the way he approaches this far more intimate tale. Instead of having the late Susie Salmon occupy a little perch in an abstract heavenly gazebo from which she can peer down upon her family and anyone else -- all that is really necessary from a narrative point of view -- the director has indulged his whims to create constantly shifting backdrops depicting an afterlife evocative of "The Sound of Music" or "The Wizard of Oz" one moment, "The Little Prince" or "Teletubbies" the next."
The normally easy to please Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter also came away disappointed noting, "Sebold's otherworldly meditation on unspeakable tragedy and hard-earned healing has been transformed by Jackson into something akin to a supernatural suspense thriller. A philosophical story about family, memory and obsession has regrettably become a mawkish appeal to victimhood."
On the other hand, Jamie Graham of Total Film gives it four stars but prefaces, "Likewise the emotion, Lovely Bones [teeters] along the thin, thin line that separates genuinely affecting from schmaltzy. How can it not, with colours popping from heavenly vistas (cornfields, lakes, mountains and more, the picture postcard views forever morphing to reflect Susie’s emotional state) and Wahlberg’s wide, earnest eyes rimmed with tears. Some will label it What Dreams May Come 2, and even those plugged in might experience a short circuit splutter come the 12-hankie denouement. But many more - the book’s fans, certainly - will exit exalted."
The HFPA's Mike Goodridge from Screen International had a mostly positive response saying, "the blockbuster film-maker demonstrates subtlety and tenderness in his treatment of the emotive subject matter. But he also almost blows it all with his afterworld special effects, smothering Sebold’s delicate conceit with overblown visuals and ostentatious CGI."
As guild and Academy screenings begin for "Bones"over the next few weeks it will be intriguing to see what side of the aisle the industry reaction to the film will be. So far, it appears that those love really love it and those who are put off by the CG heaven are much more disappointed.
In conjuction or just in time for the holiday weekend (take your pick), Paramount Pictures has released two new clips from "The Lovely Bones." The first features Saiorse Ronan as Susie Salmon being asked out on a date by a lovely English gent. The second is a more sinister introduction to Stanley Tucci's George Harvey and a scary realization by Susie's sister Lindsey (Rose McIver).
Expanding nationwide this week is Wes Anderson's highly entertaining "The Fantastic Mr. Fox." I spoke to the filmmaker last month in the house of the popular children's book's creator, Roald Dahl and it's embedded at the top of this post for your enjoyment. Having spoken to Anderson a number of times over the years it was refreshing to find him so energetic and excited about a project. That hasn't always been the case. For a larger version of the interview, click here.
In other news...
- The Weinstein Company released the third and final (?) poster for "Nine" this week. You can check out all of them along with some fine images of the lovely ladies in the musical here.
- In Contention has posted the audio of "Nine's" Marion Cotillard singing Best Original Song possibility "I Want It All' which has been on YouTube for a couple of weeks. Cotillard is absolutely fantastic in the flick, but the song is much more powerful within the context of her overall performance. She actually does a much better job singing her first number in the movie, which is from the original stage musical, "My Husband Makes Movies." A :45 second clip of that song just went online here. You can also check out Kate Hudson's complete version of the increasingly addictive "Cinema Italiano," another Best Original Song contender, below.
- Another potential candidate for Best Original Song is Ryan Bingham's "The Weary Kind (Theme From Crazy Heart)" which you can check out on the flick's official site.
- EW's Dave Karger thinks "Avatar" will play better on screener for Academy members than on big 3-D screens. We'll see, but won't it look more like a video game on the small screen Dave?
For constant updates on awards season and entertainment news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter at Twitter.com/HitFixGregory