"A giant sugar cake whose saccharinity largely camouflages the horrors of the war."
- Stephen Holden of The New York Times.
The Book Thief is a movie about Liesel () a 12-year-old girl left orphaned by her German Communist mother, and placed in the adoptive care of a middle-aged couple, Hans and Rosa ( and ) just before the Second World War, in a provincial German town. Hans and Rosa then take in and hide the Jewish son of the man who saved Hans's life in the Great War.
Despite the film's success, The Book Thief has been universally slated by film critics. The Prague Post called it "one of the worst World War II films that have ever seen the light of day." Here are the main gripes these hatchet jobs have in common.
1. The fake German accents
There's the problem of English-speaking actors doing German accents, the bane of movies about the world wars since time immemorial. Rush and Watson, excellent actors both, give it their best Ganz and Schygulla, but as usual it's like strapping the actors into the auditory equivalent of a fat-suit, with a 70% loss of conviction guaranteed from the outset.
John Patterson, The Guardian
2. Glossing over important historical details
The LA Times says "the film's family-friendly, feel-good emphasis paints over the Holocaust as well as 'Mein Kampf' in a wishful narrative set amid catastrophe. Why is "The Book Thief" set in Nazi-occupied Germany, then, if it won't engage with the era's shattering momentousness?"
3. The Voice of Death
New York Times writes: This irritating know-it-all [Death] regularly interrupts the story of Liesel (Sophie Nélisse), a bright-eyed girl living with foster parents in a fictional German town during World War II, to comment obliquely on human nature and mortality.
4. Unnecessary Subplots
Stephanie Merry, of The Washington Post writes that "the movie tries heartily to contain writer Markus Zusak’s myriad plot points, but the result is a rushed conclusion, which tempers the intended tear-jerking climax."
What do you guys think? Many of the critics found redemptive features in the film too, it may be added. Stephanie Merry praises the actors' performances: "The Book Thief has its moments of brilliance, thanks in large part to an adept cast...despite the film’s dark themes, there are a number of scenes of gentle comedy, and those come mostly thanks to Rush’s and Watson’s facial expressions and delivery."
The London Film Review asks whether "the personal tone of the film required us to have more of a microcosmic view of the trials of living in Nazi Germany?"
Do you agree with all this negative criticism? Drop your thoughts in the comment section below!