Peter Jackson's long-awaited adaptation of beloved book The Lovely Bones has been one of the few remaining question marks in the Oscar race. It finally faced critics yesterday and the results are all over the place.
Although at first glance it seems to be divided down national lines with the American critics coming out with the pitchforks and battle axes while critics in the UK, where the film debuted last night, seem to mostly like it.
In the US the trade critics are first out of the gate with their notices, and they are not one bit pleased with what Mr Jackson has been up to all these years, tinkering away with the little tale of a slain girl looking down from heaven and remembering her rape and murder.
Variety's Todd McCarthy writes, "Unfortunately, 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...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."
And at the Hollywood Reporter, Kurt Honeycutt bemoans that Jackson has turned Alice Sebold's magical otherworldly tale into a simple Law and Order-like thriller, while conceding it works okay on that level.
Over in the UK however, The Times' critic calls the film a return to Jackson's pre-blockbuster form that she showed in cult classic Heavenly Creatures. While Total Film gives Bones four stars, calling it, "A sister film to Heavenly Creatures, brimming with not just tears but imagination, thrills and verve. It's heart-on-sleeve, sure, but it also has a whiff of awards potential."
But while the Bones lingered, America's awards pundits had, sight unseen, all but written off the film's Oscar chances, locking in Precious, The Hurt Locker and Up In the Air as the race's lone heavyweights. On The Envelope's pundits poll (in which Defamer casts a vote) Lovely Bones came in a distant ninth place for best picture favorites. On Movie City News' Gurus of Gold poll, Bones takes the number eight slot.
The pundits have been pining for a shake-up in a race that seemed depressingly settled half a year before the Oscar show. Could Bones be coming in with enough support from some people at least that it will stampede the race? The question will soon be the subject of many a column, blog item and tip sheet in awards land.