NOT FOR MIDDLE-SCHOOLERS Director Peter Jackson's rendering of Alice Sebold's novel is so uneven in tone that its impact as a tale of undying parental love and as a crime thriller is undermined. The film is thrown off repeatedly by a jarring, sugary, special-effects depiction of heaven (or its waiting room) as some changeable storybook landscape. Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), a murdered 14-year-old girl, narrates her story from the afterlife. Though her rape and murder by a neighbor (a terrifically creepy Stanley Tucci) are very graphic in the book, Jackson only implies the crime on film, thankfully. Still, the way the neighbor lures Susie to his lair, recaptures her when she tries to escape, then disposes of bloody evidence, are chilling enough to make the movie a poor choice for middle-schoolers. From beyond, Susie observes her stricken father (Mark Wahlberg), defeated mother (Rachel Weisz), angry sister (Rose McIver), and the undetected killer. Susan Sarandon drinks and smokes her way through it all as Susie's swingin' grandmother. There is a beating unrelated to the murder and some profanity.
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