Would you turn down an Academy Award-winning filmmaker? Not only did Peter Jackson win an Oscar for directing The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, he also won an Oscar for adapted screenplay, an honor he shared with Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh. So the prospect of an award-winning team adapting a bestselling, critically-acclaimed 2002 novel by Alice Sebold was very exciting ... until the film opened.
Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, which expands today, was greeted with mixed to negative critical reaction when it debuted in limited engagements last month. (Current critical approval at Rotten Tomatoes rests at a mere 36%.) In her review for Cinematical, Elisabeth Rappe expressed her feeling that two directors inhabit Jackson's body, and it's the one that "revels in slapstick and CGI and believes you can never have enough dinosaurs or dwarf jokes" that made The Lovely Bones. She wrote in part: "The film is littered with tonal missteps, outlandish effects, plot holes, thinly drawn characters, and an emotional immaturity that's utterly at odds with the story."
Having seen the film, I agree with the substance of her concerns and criticisms. (We only differ on the details on what we each think worked and really, really didn't fly.) In retrospect, it makes me wonder: did The Lovely Bones need Peter Jackson as much as he needed it?