I hate Alice Sebold’s novel, The Lovely Bones. It is probably one of my least favorite books of all time. It’s basically the Tuesdays with Morrie (another horrible horrible book) of child-rape/murder. Oh, make no mistake, if you want to read a book in which a child is raped and murdered but you ALSO want it to be filled with trite macrame-philosophy about the meaning of life and have a happy ending, then there is nothing better than The Lovely Bones. But why do you want that? Maybe you should go to your therapist, or if you don’t have a therapist, get a therapist and go to your therapist, and figure out why you want that. But for as much as I hate The Lovely Bones as a book, it is as nothing as compared to how much I now hate The Lovely Bones as a movie. At the very least, The Lovely Bones: the Book was probably a way for Alice Sebold to work through the personal trauma of being raped (which she also writes about in her memoir Lucky) and we all just had the misfortune of sitting in on her Dream Journal (Nightmare Journal?) or whatever. The movie, on the other hand, isn’t helping anyone, not even Alice Sebold. It is just a big pile of trash, and it should be unceremoniously dumped into a sink hole and covered with dirt.

The Lovely Bones takes place in the 1970s in suburban America and centers around Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan, of Hanna), a 14-year-old girl who loves going to the mall and taking photos with her camera. She also loves getting murdered by a neighbor. Well, she might not love that last part, but it is one of the three things we learn about her as a human being. Oh, wait, no, she also owns a pair of yellow pants, so we know four things about her. Anyway, now she is in heaven and her family is sad. There is a police investigation but that doesn’t lead anywhere. Meanwhile, in heaven, Susie tries on new outfits?

But she is not ready to become pure energy or something, so she mostly hangs out in heaven’s gazebo, staring at her dad through a window. Eventually, everyone figures out that it was the comical next door neighbor, Stanely Tucci, who seems to have ordered his outfits and mustache from the back pages of some kind of Pervert Catalog. Seriously, if you look up “amusement park caricature of a child sex pervert” there is a drawing of Chris Hansen holding up a drawing of Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones.

And not a moment too soon! Because it seems like Stanley Tucci had started thinking about murdering Susie’s teenage sister, too. Yikes! He keeps a scrapbook about her. She is definitely in the newspaper just the average amount of times for any teenager. We’ve all been in the newspaper this much before the age of 16, I’m sure.


So it turns out Stanely Tucci is a serial killer, but it also turns out that Michael Imperioli can’t arrest him without evidence. Then they get some evidence, but now he knows that he has been discovered so he just runs away. Susie’s body is in a potato sack in a safe, and that safe gets dumped in a sinkhole and covered with dirt (call back!) but FIRST, Susie gets a disgusting GHOST KISS.

Now she is ready to be an angel in heaven, I guess. Stanley Tucci gets murdered by an icicle a couple years later. And in 1992, R.E.M. release the hit single, “Everybody Hurts.”

As a rule, movies should not depict heaven. It is always a mistake. CGI mountains? CGI magic-heaven-leaf fights?

No. It is so dumb! Not only because heaven doesn’t actually exist, but because if it did exist, and it looked like that, it would be a bummer. The whole point of transcendent, eternal, unworldly beauty is that you can’t make it a set-piece. That’s like, heaven’s whole schtick. Trying to create some kind of Pixar (or actually more like “from the people who brought you Kung Fu Panda“) version of the afterlife is like casting Alanis Morrisette as God. Just don’t do that. Why do you do that?! I mean, look at this shit:

Ain’t no party like a dead girl party cuz a dead girl party don’t BARF.

Actually, before we move on from the whole heaven thing, since that is a pretty huge part of what the whole movie is basically about, what is up with the little girl who just got killed having to pass through her murderer’s disgusting bathroom first? Is that part of heaven?


I had never heard of that before, but apparently that is what happens when we die? We go to a spooky bathroom first and then we try on different outfits and sit in a gazebo in the spirit woods?

The real problem with this movie, though, is that it abandons the point of the book from which it was adapted. Make no mistake: I hate that book, and while I in no way condone censorship and would be disturbed of the Nazi-echoes of a public book burning, if the only book being burned was The Lovely Bones, I would quietly disapprove on moral grounds probably but wouldn’t make that big a deal out of it. But the book was an examination of the ways in which a family is affected and nearly destroyed by a horrific crime. Yes, the pursuit of Susie’s killer is definitely a big part of the book, as is her soulful grappling with “letting the world go,” or whatever (classic angel stuff) but the fundamental story the book is trying to tell is about her family. Here, not so much! Here it’s mostly just a murder mystery. A murder mystery and also a heaven party. To make matters worse, at numerous moments throughout the film, members of Susie’s family are aided in their investigation into her death by her ghost. She makes a candle burn brighter, and screams peoples’ names, and makes a rose come back to life. WHERE ARE THE COPS, WHY ARE THE COPS NOT DOING THEIR JOBS, WHY DOES THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR JUSTICE FALL IN THE HANDS OF A GHOST DETECTIVE?!

Oh, and here’s another thing: so, everyone figures out that Stanley Tucci is the murderer, right, and Susie’s sister even finds damning evidence in the form of a book of murder-club sketches and locks of hair hidden under the floorboards of Stanley Tucci’s bedroom. But when the cops get there, he has already fled. We learn that he is killed later by an icicle (in the process of trying to murder another woman, as if somehow that is supposed to make us feel better?) but meanwhile back in the Salmon household, everything is fine and dandy. Do you see what I am saying? AS FAR AS THEY KNOW THERE IS STILL A TERRIBLE CHILD SEX MURDERER OUT ON THE LOOSE AND NO ONE GIVES A CRAP. “Well, at least he doesn’t live across the street from us anymore. I sure hope he doesn’t murder any more little girls, but what can you do.” Yikes.

Most importantly, though, the movie has basically taken out the whole rape thing. I guess Stanley Tucci might have raped her, but it’s hardly even suggested, really. Now, I’m not saying I want to see a movie about a child being raped and murdered, but I’m not the one who wrote the book, or that bought the rights, or adapted it into a screenplay. If you’re going to make a movie about a family dealing with the death of a child who was raped and murdered, then you might as well make a movie about a family dealing with the death of a child who was raped and murdered. KIND OF A TOUGH THING TO SUGARCOAT OR MAKE SLIGHTLY NOT REALLY AT ALL MORE PLEASANT. The Lovely Bones, now with less child rape! Bring your children!”

Ugh. The Lovely Bones is even worse than What Dreams May Come*, and What Dreams May Come is TERRIBLE. This may very well be in the top 10 Worst Movies of All Time, but at the very least, it is definitely the Worst Movie About Heaven of All Time. Case closed.

Next week: The Quiet. As always, please leave your suggestions in the comments or in an email. And if you haven’t done so already, please consult the Official Rules.

*Incidentally, both The Lovely Bones and What Dreams May Come depictions of heaven feature a female Asian tour guide. WHAT IS THAT ALL ABOUT?
Comments (132)
  1. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  2. Boy am I glad that my boyfriend Ryan Gosling got fired from this movie.

  3. This might cause some controversy but I am firmly in the no child rape/murder camp, in movies and in life

  4. Also nomination time- 1999′s Drive Me Crazy with Melissa Joan Hart and Adrian Grenier

    Look how exciting this synopsis is
    ” Nicole is up on the latest fashions; Chase, on the latest protest. She wouldn’t miss a pep rally or basketball game with her scheming socialite friends; he can usually be found in a dark coffee room with his friends who don’t care what they wear.”
    Yes Vincent Chase is playing someone named Chase

    Also the script was written by this dude named Rob Thomas who later went on to make these shows named Veronica Mars and Party Down, which you may have heard of, you may love, hey everybody makes mistakes

  5. “Baby you’re all that I want
    When we’re climbin’ CGI mountains
    and walkin’ through a murderer’s bathroom
    We’re in heaven.” — Bryan Adams

  6. I remember being in high school when this book was all the rage. I accidentally mistook it for The Glass Menagerie, which all the older kids also had to read. So I bought it not really knowing what it was about. And then after reading the first chapter I figured it would have been worse to ONLY read the part of the book with child rape so I kept reading. I was not similarly fooled into watching that movie.

  7. I really liked Lovely Bones. These WMOAT threads just piss me off.

  8. The Lovelier Bones

  9. let’s just use this opportunity to talk about how good John Hodgman’s new mustache was.

    “I was going for Stanley Tucci in the lovely bones. You know, sophisticated, friendly.”

  10. “You’re never too young to look rapeable.” -Sexual Predator Snooki

  11. My sister read this book for a book club, but because she did not want to put in the effort to actually read it, she played it on cd while doing other stuff. Which, good on her, because I would not want to put that effort in either. But at the time, I lived with her, and to stay in my apartment during its playing meant that I had to listen because no amount of background noise successfully blocked it*. Consequently, we both hated her bookclub (her selection was Zombie related in an act of vengeance), and she owed me all the cokes for subjecting me to cruel and unusual punishment.

  12. Avatar! Pleaseohpleaseohplease! God, what a steaming pile of self-important turds.

    • That would be a fun one, but I have a confession. Last year I indulged in as much schadenfreude as anyone in seeing Cameron go down at the Oscar’s to his ex. But then last week I actually watched Hurt Locker. DId not like. At all!

      Basically an adrenaline junkie asshole almost getting his comrades killed for two hours. And a tangent about some Iraqi kid he befriends that takes a really improbable/manipulative/distasteful twist. Also I didn’t believe this movie at all. Obviously all I know about “being over there” comes from TV shows and documentaries with their own agendas, but maybe two scenes felt true in the entire movie. I’m sure IED disarming is a crazy business and worth a movie or two, but these characters and the whole story were just well-worn action/war movie cliches rehashed in a new locale.

      • the further i get away from 2009, the more i realize that “up in the air” was the best movie of that year by a mile.

        • Take off those last three words in the title and I might agree.

        • I really enjoyed “Up In the Air” so I slightly agree with you about it being at least one of the best of 2009; however, I finally saw “An Education” and that was also one of the best of 2009 in my opinion.

        • Up in the air is a horrible made for tv, lest i say lifetime movie storyline with good actors.
          He’s a DISILLUSIONED man who sees it as strength, HOPE and LOVE lures him out of his hard shell and unveils it as self-deceit, but noooo BETRAYAL she’s married i guess now he just has to spend the rest of his life, UP IN THE AIR.


        • I read the book of “Up in the Air” while on vacation. Let me tell you that book is the WORST. I hadn’t seen the movie, but that was when all the previews were on constantly. I hated it from the beginning, but decided I would read until Anna Kendrick’s character showed up. Well, that was the STUPIDEST plan ever because in the book THERE IS NO ANNA KENDRICK CHARACTER! The book is just terrible.

          After I finished it, I threw it in the pool as a form of protest.

  13. “Seriously, if you look up “amusement park caricature of a child sex pervert” there is a drawing of Chris Hansen holding up a drawing of Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones.”

    That line cracked me up. And I would love to see that drawing.

  14. I thought the lovely bones was a great film about basketball. I learned a lot about basketball from the film “the Lovely Bones”

  15. I think people are focusing too much on the moustache. I would say his glasses make him look WAAAAY more rapey.

  16. Thank you for addressing the same ICICLE JUSTICE that made me fling this book across the room when I first read it (after rereading that page 4 or 5 times to confirm that that’s what actually happened)

  17. FYI, Soul Gazebo is the name of our new alt-funk band.

    We’re moderately huge in Tulsa.

  18. I worked at Blockbuster when this movie came out on DVD. “Ya’ll got that movie Lonely Bones?” I heard that an average of 40 times a day. They’d be looking at the movie poster and still ask me, “Ya’ll got that Lonely Bones ’bout that little girl?” I’d just do them a favor and say “no”

  19. Again, I must insist:

    is THE WORST THING that has ever happened to anything, ever, the worst. Gwenyth Paltrow saw this movie and was like “ugh, those self-important entitled bitches.” THAT BAD.

  20. So she’s a ghost that helps solve mysteries? I know some kids who are going to be upset…

    • The one in the middle was in my poli sci class in college! She now does lots of voiceover work. She’s basically the not-homeless female Ted Williams.

      • That is Lenni Frazier. I wanted so badly to be Lenni Frazier when I was a little girl. Living in a loft downtown with my cool musician dad, cracking wise and solving mysteries. Looking back, I realize how ridiculous it was to wish that my mother was dead and that I shared a shitty apartment over a bodega with my dad. Especially because my dad can only cook three things: hot dogs, omlettes, and Kraft Dinner.

        • Is your dad my dad??

          • Possibly. He met my mom kind of late and before that he was just kind of traveling around, making money where he could, and probably doing things that it would scar me to know about.


        • I didn’t watch a ton of Ghostwriter, but my little sister did, and when I casually told her that I had class with one of the girls from the show, she freaked out and wanted me to take a picture of her. But it was a seminar class with like 10 people that was rooted in roundtable discussions, and it probably would’ve been a little strange to be like “Can you hold that thought about Aristotle’s philosophy on education and pose for a quick pic for my sister? She loved Ghostwriter when she was 8!”
          Also she probably wished she was Lenni and also has a dad who could only cook those 3 things. You’re not alone! Also my dad still turns everything blue or pink when he does the wash and he is 60. You’d think he’d get the hang of it, but no.

          • You didn’t get a picture? So silly. Nothing stimulates comradery and philosophical discussion quite like awkwardly bringing up someone’s child acting gigs and demanding signed head shots!

    • Semi-related: Where were all these girls that wore vests and overalls when I was in the 90s??

  21. This is a movie my parents will eventually Netflix and tell me it “wasn’t bad.” That is their review of every movie. Thanks to Netflix, we all watched the Kevin Costner – Dane Cook mashup Mr Brooks and when it ended they said, “That wasn’t bad.” The very next night we saw the King Kong remake in a theater. Giant widescreen Kong battling one — two — THREE tyrannousaurs! A tribe of terrifying savages! Jack Black, and my wife Naomi Watts! ENDLESS SPIDERS OF DOOOOOM! That poor ape! It ended and they said, “That wasn’t bad.”

    The only movies that got other reviews from them: Reservoir Dogs (“That was weird”) and Life Aquatic (which left them speechless). I don’t think Lovely Bones is going to get there. I think they are going to tell me it wasn’t bad.

    • did you notice in the king kong remake, when he tears up the theatre in new york, the upper balcony can’t support his weight and crumbles beneath him when he tries to climb up on it, but later he just slides around on the surface of the frozen lake in central park because the ice sheet on the surface of the water can handle that weight but not the construction inside the theatre which is designed to hold x hundreds of people in the audience. I was all like yeah, way to be Mr Realism, Peter Jackson you fucking douche

  22. “That’s not what heaven looks like.” -Colton Burpo, who would know.

    • Waaay better cornfields feature in ‘Ratcatcher’ (no spoiler-o, the ending is ambiguous)

      Go watch it now! Brilliant downer film. Also featuring rape, suicide and possible murder, but in a non-saccharine, less eyeballs-filled-with-rainbow-glass fashion.

  23. Peter Jackson should stick to making movies out of books that are NOT about child rape/murder. He had way more success with those.

  24. can someone tell me what the title “Lovely Bones” is in reference to? it seems kind of ghoulish like the raped and murdered child left behind a skeleton that people like the crypt keeper and pinhead from hellraiser can sit around smacking their chops and saying “mmmmm those are some lovely bones” and admire it and nod their heads in approval of the lovely and delightful skeleton this girl who was murdered left behind

    or is there some other explanation for this title? I have no desire to watch this movie and/or read said book

    • To paraphrase a favorite commentor of mine, “????????????????????????????”

      • answer my question, what is the title about? is it about how the murdered girl’s skeleton was lovely or what? is it a reference to something specific or am I left to think the author had a fetish for bones?

        • It’s some Oprah feelingsy crap about the personal connections formed between people after the murder.

          “These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections — sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent — that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events my death brought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. The price of what I came to see as this miraculous lifeless body had been my life.”

          Gag. Me.

          • holy christ is that ever maudlin and stupid. I prefer my version aka the crypt keeper and pinhead from hellraiser smacking their chops and being all like “Yess yesssss lovely bones on that murdered girl’s skeleton all right.” and then the crypt keeper makes some boner joke or something and then pinhead’s all “YOUR PAIN WILL BE LEGENDARY IN HELL!” or something equally apt

          • Wait, that’s supposed to be the voice of a 14-year-old?

            “Okay, first of all, ZOMG, I’m dead? But people are totally carrying on with their lives! TRAITORS! (MOM, please don’t put any more stuffed animals on my grave, that is EMBARRASSING.) But like I guess at least she remembers me? And so does my Dad, and the police (not really! GOOD JOB CATCHING THE BAD GUY, retards! — oops sorry that’s a bad word). And Stanley Tucci remembers me — I SEE YOU MASTERBATING YOU FREAKO. ALL THE TIME! Suzie Piccolo could care less about me anymore, she let Zak Moskowitz finger her during recess and he was supposed to be MINE. TRAITORS. But even Zak got to her by talking about how he missed me, so there’s that. I’m loved. Whatever. Srsly. I’m dead and everyone else gets to hang out. MY AFTERLIFE IS SOOOO LAME. Team Edward, Ha.”

          • I concur, Steve. Blargh.

            I don’t understand how a woman who has actually EXPERIENCE REAL LIFE ACTUAL RAPE WHICH IS HORRIBLE wants to present it in this gooey manner? I guess it’s her way of dealing with it? SORRY, NOPE, NOT LITERATURE.

          • I love your Quatchi avatar. Best part of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

  25. “Wowza! I can’t believe I mastered the ability to possess another human being from my undead state! So cool! Wait, Is that my body being pushed into a giant hole in the ground by my murder, forever robbing my parents of the ability to bring my killer to justice and give me a proper burial? Maybe If I used this girl’s body to tell her boyfriend to call the police and at least try to stop a continued desecration of my corpse my family may finally get peace and this sicko will stopped! Great PLAN!!! Lets do it!!! or………….smooch time!
    Also, fuck you mom, dad, sis, other victims of Stanley Tuccui’s Rape Cave, and of course you the audience”

  26. i remember liking the book when i read it, but i liked a lot of things when i was 19 that i can’t fathom liking now.

  27. for the bazillionth time (srsly, i’ve counted) i’m going to nominate The Next Best Thing starring Madonna and Rupert Grint. GABE YOU WILL LOVE (HATE) IT!

  28. Candidate for second worst movie about Heaven (I think. I don’t really remember): Here on Earth.

    Chris Klein or Leelee Sobieski gets cancer, I think. All I remember is the particular shade of terrible that the movie vomited all over everyone who watched it.

  29. I’m kinda confused as to why you left out any reference to Susan Sarandon’s role as the grandmother, namely since it was the absolute worst and most pointless role in the history of film. WROAT.

    I remember watching a leaked screener copy of this with my wife, a couple of weeks before it was released in theatres, and as soon as it ended I pretty much ran to my computer to e-mail Gabe/tips@videogum.com to tell him to keep a lookout for this pukey pile of vomit barf when compiling WMOAT nominees in the near future. A long time coming.

  30. I want to repeat my nomination for BAD BOYS 2. It’s the one where Michael Bay imposed his director’s credit over the image of a burning cross.

  31. about the heaven video, way to ruin the best thing that happened in Lost Highway.
    That´s excluding the headbutting the glass table-thing (obviously).

  32. I didn’t realise that rape victims went on to live in microsoft backgrounds. What was this shit? And how can Mark Ballbag be involved with such good films but then say lines such as ‘one bean?’ and think he can get away with it.

  33. I saw this movie in the theater and I found it depressing and disturbing, even though I had already read the book and knew what it was about. Most disturbing part? As we were exiting the theater there was a woman with her (visibly shaken) 8-year-old daughter. Who would take a litte girl to see this movie? Even if you didn’t know what it was about, wouldn’t you leave as soon as you realized it was about the rape and murder of a little girl? Or are you trying to really drive home the whole “stranger danger” argument? My daughter freaked out when Hagrid gave Duddly a pig tail.

    • Sounds like an interesting form of parenting. “Now Betty, did you see how Susie Salmon got ambiguously raped and most definitely murdered and also heaven is boring as fuck? Well THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS if you don’t eat your vegetables.”

  34. weird how in 1970s heaven they play indie goth music from the 80s. also the role of the girl exclaiming “it’s HEAVEN!” should’ve been played by the girl from “kittens inspired by kittens”.

  35. I have heard a lot about this movie but haven’t watched it yet.

  36. Nominating:

    Failure to Launch

    I know I had more in mind than that. I wish I could remember them.

  37. first time commenter – long time reader
    i would like to nominate dinner for schmucks as it was the worst film i have seen in a long time. thank you.

  38. I have been silent in the videogum community for too long. Because I Said So must be considered as one of the worst movies of all time. It may seem like a normal horrible romantic comedy at first but it is far and above all other horrible romantic comedies. Trust me, Diane Keaton falls into a giant cake more than once in this movie. Also Mandy Moore. It must be seen to be believed.

  39. that shit is really the worst movie ever..

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