No "Bones" about it

I never read Alice Sebold’s  novel “The Lovely Bones” about a 14-year-old girl in Pennsylvania who posthumously observes the progress of the investigation into her rape/murder, but I was intrigued when Lynne Ramsay, the uncompromising Scottish director of “Ratcatcher” and “Morvern Callar" signed up to adapt it.

Apparently she had signed on before the book was finished and before the author had changed its initially dark tone into something more conventional and sentimental, or at least before the published novel became a fabulously successful best seller, but at some point Ramsay’s participation in the project became moot. Stephen Spielberg’s DreamWorks muscled in and bought the rights fromthe financially struggling Film Four Productions, squeezed out Ramsay (she was so demoralized, according to one version of the story, that she wanted to quit filmmaking; at any rate she hasn’t made a film since), and got Peter Jackson to write the script and direct.

So, big deal, you say, and you’d be right, because a movie that would originally would have cost less than a 30 second trailer for “King Kong” was budgeted at $65 million. But I shouldn’t pooh pooh a production simply because it cost big bucks. After all, before he got into the market of draining all the magic and imagination out of one of one of my favorite fantasy epics through overwrought special effects and lumbering, humorless literalism, Jackson made the quite strange and original “Heavenly Creatures.” Could “Bones” be a return to that lost inspiration?

If “New York” magazine’s assessment of the screenplay is any indication, the answer is, probably not. Not that “New York” is any arbiter of taste, but from their description Jackson’s adaptation sounds, well, as if it suffers from overwrought special effects and lumbering, humorless literalism. No doubt Ramsay’s version might have sucked, too, but with Jackson’s budget she’d still have enough money left over to make about a hundred “Morvern Callars” or even lure Roger Clemens away from the Yankees.

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