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The Book Thief is a surprising disappointment

_U5B7161April 26, 2013.cr2
The Book Thief should be brilliant.
Based on the bestselling novel of the same name, its literary counterpart has won countless awards and sold more than eight million copies.
It tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a young girl who is sent to live with foster parents in Nazi Germany after her mother is accused of being a communist.
Illiterate when she arrives, she learns to read with the help of her foster father and becomes obsessed by reading in a time when book burnings were the norm.
Indeed, there are plenty of things to enjoy about The Book Thief.
Unlike many young adult films, the acting of the lead pair is top-notch, with Canadian Sophie Nelisse convincing as the troubled but feisty Liesel and an affable Nico Liersch as her pal, Rudy.
It is beautifully shot; the school scenes resembling a Lowry painting while the village is presented as an idyllic Alpine town (which, considering the subject matter, is a little odd).
But far more effort is put into making the film look and sound pretty than in telling the story.
The plot has all the ingredients to move its audience – school bullying, a lonely childhood, Jews hiding from the Nazis.
It is embarrassing then to admit that you are regularly checking your watch as the film drags on without hitting an emotional nerve.
One of the more touching parts of the book, the relationship between the young Liesel and the surrogate father who teaches her to read, leaves the audience cold here as not enough time is invested in it.
And although some trickier scenes are shot well, such as Kristellnacht and the book burnings, they fail to capture the horror of the events and you feel the director constantly has the young audience in mind.
Pitched at young adults, the film is wary of being too violent as it sugar coats the nastier scenes.
But it then creates an obvious divide between the Nazis (who all speak German) and the English-speaking ‘good guys’, so as not to confuse the viewers (one assumes).
For a book which was so loved by so many, this hackneyed and boring adaption is not the film those fans deserve.
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