By: Felipe M.
The first thing that grabs you about this film was the impressive trailer that was released to hype this movie up. When you hear the voice of a young girl named Susie Salmon (“like the fish!”) announce that she was murdered at the age of 14--way back in 1973--it brings a chill down your spine. Plus we find out that Peter Jackson, of Lord of the Rings fame and Producer of the amazing District 9 will be the director. As the trailer continues, you see these beautiful worlds that Susie traverses. We quickly realize that this film is a suspense/thriller; it looked promising. What was quickly realized is that not only is this film an adaptation of the novel written by Alice Sebold, but it’s also a novel that many people have read and felt a connection with it. Everybody knows at least one person that swears that this novel is incredible. Unfortunately, the movie would fail to live up to the hype.
Susie, played by young actress Saoirse Ronan (who gives a solid performance), is your typical suburban teenage girl. She goes to school, likes to shoot pictures, tries to enjoy life, is falling in love with the new boy at school, and, of course, is growing distant from her family, especially her mother. Mark Wahlberg (who looks and sounds like his John Holmes character in Boogie Nights), plays Susie’s father Jack—the wannabe Charles Bronson who will stop at nothing to solve her daughter’s murder. Susan Sarandon provides much needed, though very limited, comic relief to this film as Grandma Lynn. But the one actor who stood out in this film was Stanley Tucci--who plays the murderer George Harvey--not only had the best performance in this film, but also had the most interesting character as Harvey was not your run-of-the-mill hack-n-slash axe killer, but a master craftsman of doll houses and intricate animal traps (two things that all Tweener girls find hard to resist apparently).
Movie starts out well, but after Susie gets murdered, the movie just drags to an almost standstill as Susie aimlessly walks from one digital graphic to another in the afterlife (which as many, many movie critics have mentioned before, a lot of these worlds are reminiscent of allergy medication commercials), and mulls over perpetually if she should stay in a state of purgatory or heaven as she is accompanied by an Asian girl about her age who is constantly talking in unintelligible riddles. Even when Susie is alive, as mentioned before, she is playing the role of your typical teenager—full of angst, uncertainty, frustration, as well as youth, optimism, and curiosity—who you have probably seen in many generic, adolescent TV shows before. You’ve seen one teenage girl who’s either an outcast or Ms. Popular, you’ve seen them all! Meanwhile, back on Earth, we watch the cat and mouse game that Mark Wahlberg plays with himself because he’s just too stupid to catch the cunning and surprisingly resilient Harvey, who lives across the street from him.
The film did attract some controversy as Peter Jackson (seemingly) decided that it was best to remove the rape and murder event of Susie for the film adaptation of the novel (supposedly, one of the most graphic and chilling events in the novel itself). This omission would create countless discussions in the following months among peers. Should it have been kept? Why would anyone want to see a little girl get killed? There are no clear cut answers to these questions, but one thing is for certain, this movie had its target audience set and adding the murder would have easily given this film an R-rating, something that had to be avoided by any means. An R-rating would have made this film pointless because their target audience wouldn’t have been allowed to watch it anyway. Credit is given to the studio for having direction as to where they wanted this film to go, but the bottom line is that their safe, but gutless approach would have made more sense to appear on a channel like Noggin, The CW, or some other popular “Tweener” Channel (undoubtedly to be scheduled in front of the latest popular primetime vampire show).
The after school special feel for this movie is very uninspiring, but it streamlines very well with the uninspiring performances from the actors, especially Wahlberg, and let’s not forget the horrible CGI that was used throughout this movie. In conclusion, this movie shouldn’t have made its way to the big screen. At best, this movie had the potential to be a “Lifetime Movie of the Week.” It is meant to be avoided , at all costs!