Site not look beautiful? Click here

Film

The Book Thief’ fails to capture its source material

Image
From let, Sophie Nélisse, Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush star in The Book Thief.

Two and a half stars

The Book Thief Sophie Nélisse, Emily Watson, Geoffrey Rush. Directed by Brian Percival. Rated PG-13. Now playing.

The Book Thief feels very much as if it stole a book itself: the best-selling 2005 source novel, written by Australian author Markus Zusak. Like many literary adaptations, this one skims hurriedly over the surface of a sprawling narrative, attempting to make up for the lack of complexity or nuance by serving up grandiose emotional cues. The adventures of Liesel (Sophie Nélisse), a 9-year-old girl who’s deposited with a married couple (Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush) when her Communist mother flees the Nazis, involve war, death (Death actually narrates the story, in fact), illiteracy, a semi-wicked stepmother (okay, foster mother) and the sheltering of a Jewish refugee (Ben Schnetzer); while a 550-page novel has room to deftly juggle so many harrowing elements, a two-hour movie simply does not.

Director Brian Percival, who’s previously worked mostly in British television, treats each strand of the plot as if it were an item on a checklist, relying heavily on one of John Williams’ most overbearing, saccharine scores to goose the viewer into feeling something. For fans of the book, seeing a condensed dramatization might be a worthwhile supplement to a treasured experience, but anyone coming to the material cold will be left that way.

Share

Commenting Policy

  • Superheroes, sequels and a sex tape: Weekly's look at the upcoming season's flicks.

  • Glazer is one of the most visionary directors currently working.

  • An intriguing idea is completely discarded in favor of action sequences.

  • Get More Film Stories
Top of Story