Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Miniseries Review: Bag of Bones

Bag of Bones (Continuing to air on A&E throughout December)

I don't quite understand the allure of Stephen King to both readers and moviewatchers. I've never read one of his books, as they seem overly long and tedious if the film adaptations are any clue. There are obviously some very successful adaptations in the past (The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption, Misery, etc.), but recent adaptations have failed to achieve that same level of commercial or critical success; The Mist was the last film I'd say was successfully adapted from a King novel, though it was not a box office draw and the ending was completely changed from King's original. So I always wonder, whenever a new King film or miniseries is in the works, why producers keep trying to catch lightning in a bottle. After slugging through Bag of Bones, I'm still wondering.

Michael Noonan (Pierce Brosnan) is a best-selling novelist who is dealing with a bout of writers' block following the untimely death of his pregnant wife, Jo (Annabeth Gish). He decides to spend some time at a lake house which he inherited years ago from his grandfather in the small town of Dark Scores, Maine. While there he realizes that his wife's spirit is with him, though there are some dangerous ghosts haunting the town as well, namely the vengeful spirit of blues singer Sara Tidwell (Anika Noni Rose). As Michael delves further into the mystery of Sara's disappearance, he gets tangled in a decades-old curse concerning his family and the families of many other Dark Scores residents, including that of his new love interest (Melissa George).

The plot is fairly straightforward, as most ghost stories are. The scares can be seen from a mile away, and so can the plot's "twist." So we get four boring hours of Pierce Brosnan talking on the phone, going for jogs, writing a book, rearranging refrigerator magnets, listening to old records, and dreaming... lots and lots of dreaming. Bag of Bones' story could have easily been told in about 90 minutes, so the fact that it's dragged out to more than twice that length is excruciating. To add to the runtime, the already-thin plotline is padded with meaningless dream sequences and unnecessary cameos from Jason Priestley (as Michael's agent) and Matt Frewer (as Michael's brother).

Pierce Brosnan is giving a terribly uncomfortable performance here. It's embarrassing to watch at times, actually, because he's ruining all the good memories we used to have of him as James Bond and Remington Steele. For four hours, he pants and moans and cackles. That's literally all there is to his character, who has no dimension and no real arc. Brosnan harshly overacts the majority of his scenes, particularly the emotional ones. He's also totally mismatched with Melissa George (In Treatment), who is given nothing to do but suddenly be romantically interested (for no reason, and without motive) in a man who looks like her father. The best performance is given by Anika Noni Rose as Sara Tidwell; the problem with her role, however, is that she only really has one scene and it doesn't come until three hours into the series. Prior to that she only gets to sing (though she does it beautifully) old jazz and blues songs, a disembodied voice which Michael falls asleep to. But her one scene in Part Two is wonderful, the only on-pitch performance in the entire event. William Schallert (The Patty Duke Show) is entertaining as the town villain, but his character makes no sense and he isn't given anything to do other than "talk like an evil person!'

When you get down to it, Bag of Bones is a waste of time. It's boring and tedious, without anything to recommend other than a couple decent performances and some nicely done editing. But save yourself the four hours and find something else to watch, even if it's a repeat. Maybe this can put the final nail in the coffin of Stephen King TV miniseries after some awful recent attempts, including this one.

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