A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Though it centers on a shocking murder, the movie takes great pains to juxtapose the violence with love and domesticity. Loss, though destabilizing, is portrayed as far from decimating. Death isn’t explored as an end but a passage.
Positive Role Models
Yes, there’s a murderer/pedophile involved, but besides him, the movie's characters are decent and earnest -- as well as realistically imperfect. Though the mother reacts in a surprising way to her daughter’s death, her love for her child comes through; the father is more textbook caring. And the younger sister is impressive in her courage and determination.
Violence & Scariness
Brief flashes of a man grabbing and throwing a teenager to the floor and against the wall (though her actual death takes place off screen). He’s also shown carrying a bloody bag and soaking in a tub, his blood-stained clothing strewn on the floor. The sink is filled with bloodied water. A safe that presumably holds a corpse is repeatedly shown. The bodies of a serial killer's victims are shown in the various places where they were dumped. A teenager beats up a man with a baseball bat; the man is later shown bruised and battered.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some kissing. Implied pedophilia.
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One "f--k," plus occasional use of words like "hell" and "oh God" (as an exclamation). Also some name-calling, including “jerk off,” “moron,” and “stupid.”
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Products & Purchases
Some labels and signage are visible (Kodak, Seventeen magazine).
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A grandmother chain-smokes and drinks heavily in front of her grandchildren.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that director Peter Jackson's drama based on Alice Sebold's best-selling book The Lovely Bones centers on the aftermath of an enormous tragedy: the death of a child (though the actual death itself isn't shown on screen). The intense subject matter -- murder and molestation -- may overwhelm younger teens. Although the movie's messages about love and loss are ultimately positive, the film is often deeply sorrowful and, at times, quite violent (images include dead bodies, bloody clothes, and more). Language includes mostly name-calling; there's also some kissing, and one older character smokes and drinks in front of children. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
As Susie, Ronan is infinitely watchable: She's compelling every time she's on screen. Her sadness plumbs depths; her joy soars. And when it's clear that she's been hurt, the impact is enormous. Losing her is palpable, and that's critical, considering that she's the story's pivot point. Wahlberg and Weisz are strong, too, though perhaps not as gripping, as is Rose McIver as Susie's younger sister. But Tucci: Though terrifying, he tragically plays to type. You can spot his child molester a mile away.
THE LOVELY BONES loses its way when it spends too much time in a place where director Peter Jackson is clearly comfortable: the in-between (the place between Heaven and Earth). Painted with visually arresting CG effects, this place is a sight to behold, a lyrical middle earth. But Jackson lingers there way too long, slowing down the movie's pace. Unfortunately that comes at the expense of the family's unraveling, which seems painted in over-broad stroke.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.