Stephen King is often underrated as a writer, even though he creates compelling characters and has a deceptively casual style. Part of the problem is that he works in horror, and best-selling horror at that, which may prompt some critics to view his work skeptically. But another problem is that his work is so often turned into unsatisfactory screen productions.
The latest example is "Stephen King's Bag of Bones," a two-part adaptation of King's novel, which airs at 7 p.m. today and Monday on A&E.
The film stars Pierce Brosnan as Mike Noonan, an author trying to recover from the abrupt death of his wife Jo (Annabeth Gish). That effort takes him to a small lakeside community in Maine, where he must deal with nightmares, ghostly visitors, the mystery surrounding several deaths and, it appears, unfinished business with his wife.
With an adapted script by Matt Venne ("Pelts," "Mirrors 2") and direction by Mick Garris (TV's "The Stand," "Masters of Horror"), the production aims both for an unsettling tone and what for long stretches is a one-man show by Brosnan. Besides Gish, the supporting cast includes Jason Priestley, Melissa George and Anika Noni Rose, but viewers may be most impressed to see William Schallert ("The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," "The Patty Duke Show") still acting -- impressively -- at 89.
But much of the show focuses on the emotional torments afflicting Noonan. Brosnan is often good -- even if he is about 20 years older than the character as conceived by King -- but he is overshadowed by an increasingly ridiculous story.
The production could easily have been an hour shorter as it drags the audience toward a resolution that is, in at least a general way, evident long before the characters get to it. "Bag of Bones" has also rewritten King in ways that do not serve the author well; even Jo's death is presented more effectively in the novel than in the adjustments for TV.