When little orphan Liesel (13-year-old Sophie Nélisse) first meets her foster parents in 1939 Germany, her frosty new mom (Emily Watson) hisses, ”Look at the girl. She’s filthy.” But grime is exactly what’s missing from this schmaltzy take on Markus Zusak’s 2005 best-seller, The Book Thief, directed by frequent Downton Abbey helmer Brian Percival. The Liesel we see is spotless; she has adorable pin curls and radiates klieg-light levels of wholesomeness. As she comes of age during wartime, the terrors of the Third Reich are bathed in a cozy, Thomas Kinkade-style glow that makes even swastika flags seem like festive holiday decorations, and any plot point that wouldn’t pair with a swell of violins has been neatly excised. It would make for a pretty ghastly pageant if not for smart, understated turns by Watson and Geoffrey Rush as the charmingly Teutonic couple who rescue both Liesel and a stranded Jew (Ben Schnezter) — not to mention the movie itself — with honorable matter-of-factness. B-
BOOK COVER This adaptation of the 2005 bestseller struggles to bring the novel to life. (Jules Heath)
Genre: Drama; Starring: Sophie Nelisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson; Director: Brian Percival; Release Date Wide: 11/15/2013; Runtime (in minutes): 131; MPAA Rating: PG-13; Distributor: 20th Century Fox Film Corporation
Posted November 20 2013 — 12:00 AM EST
- See 4 never-before-seen images from the illustrated 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'
- 21 things we learned from Lifetime's 'Unauthorized 90210 Story'
- Michael Fassbender 'studied Ashton Kutcher' (not really) for 'Steve Jobs'
- Why Victoria Justice got starstruck at Fashion Week
- Broadway's Cinderella and Prince Hans actor from 'Frozen' tie the knot
- Miley Cyrus hosts 'SNL': EW live blog
- Miley Cyrus hosts 'SNL': Play People's unofficial drinking game