The Lovely Bones is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. My friends know how much I like movies, and that I'm always looking for redemptive themes and reasons to like a movie. Not so this time.
I echo what Roger Ebert had to say about this movie: "The Lovely Bones is a deplorable film with this message: If you're a 14-year-old girl who has been brutally raped and murdered by a serial killer, you have a lot to look forward to."
Here's what happens: Fourteen-year old Susie gets murdered by a neighbor (played well by Stanley Tucci), her spirit goes to "the in-between place" - a beautiful world that director Peter Jackson (yes, of Lord of the Rings fame) spends WAY too much time showing us - while her parents try to figure out who killed her. Of course, it's no mystery to the audience; there's no one else in the cast that could have possibly murdered the girl. So there's no suspense on that point. The only mildly suspenseful moment occurs when Susie's sister breaks into the murderer's home and discovers (implausibly, I might add) something that gives him away.
So many stupid things happen in this movie that people in the audience were actually laughing by the end. Which is tragic, because the film revolves around an utterly unbearable, disgusting, evil event. There are several strange comedic moments, including - believe it or not - a soap suds fight between Grandma (played by Susan Sarandon) and Susie's little brother - a scene that had no business being in a film about a serial killer. It's always fun to see another soap suds fight in a movie, right?
If the film reflects Peter Jackson's view of the afterlife, it's especially sad. The "gospel" according to Jackson is that if you're a good person (meaning you love your family, develop your talents, and stay out of trouble) you get to go to an impersonal, lonely place and look on as people on earth reel hopelessly from grief and injustice. There's no God on earth nor in the "in-between place" - nor, presumably, in heaven (which doesn't ever come into view here). Tragic events on earth have no purpose; there is no sovereign God, not even a Force, that helps things make sense.
Christianity, on the other hand, does not cover up the unthinkable horror of rape and murder by inviting us to a psychedelic afterlife. It says instead that there is a loving, personal God who was himself brutally murdered and who daily steps into our pain and provides real hope through the cross. Meanwhile the saints in heaven cry, "How long?" But when Jesus Christ is revealed and the creation's groaning ceases, we will experience a renewed earth where righteousness prevails.