Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes
Judicious and well acted, with some fine details of human strength and frailty. But its ultimate asset may be to lead young audiences back to the book ...
New York Magazine/Vulture:
We keep waiting for something eye-opening, and we rarely get it. By and large, The Book Thief is serviceable, sleek, and stodgy.
The film shines a bright light on Nelisse, a fresh young talent whose expressive eyes say everything.
New York Post:
Overall, it's engaging and serves its young audience well - a rare Holocaust movie that doesn't strain to become Oscar bait.
You just wonder if this film's audience might be happier at home, curled up with a book. "The Book Thief," perhaps.
Markus Zusak's international bestseller The Book Thief has been brought to the screen with quiet effectiveness and scrupulous taste by director Brian Percival and writer Michael Petroni.
As melodrama, the movie is an absorbing portrait of a community's indifference to its own.
If you can't do a thing right, sometimes it's best not to do it at all. Thankfully, "The Book Thief" gets more right than it doesn't.
A tale of WWII Germany as seen through the eyes of a young girl, "The Book Thief" is unobjectionable, sentimental, and not a little dull.
This plush, mawkish period drama, adapted from Markus Zusak's 2005 best-seller, might be useful as a means of introducing the Holocaust to small children, but it's indefensible on almost any other terms.
"The Book Thief" tries so hard to warm our hearts amid grotesque suffering, it goes a bit mad under the strain.
It would make for a pretty ghastly pageant if not for smart, understated turns by Watson and Geoffrey Rush.
An embarrassing gut-punch of unfiltered schmaltz.
The movie lacks the nerve to treat death as anything more menacing than the tooth fairy.
There is much to admire in Percival's film version, but you may come away more impressed by the intentions than by the achievements.
Los Angeles Times:
Why is "The Book Thief" set in Nazi-occupied Germany ... if it won't engage with the era's shattering momentousness?
Gorgeous photography and a potential new star in 13-year-old Nelisse, but this is the rosiest view of Nazi Germany since "The Sound of Music." Without the music.
Markus Zusak's enormously successful young-adult novel seems to have been adapted as a movie for middle-aged children.
Everything is far too pretty, from the wintry landscapes to the cozily shabby homes. Even as the war goes on, talk of it - and the Reich - remains simplistic.
New York Daily News:
Remains loyal to Markus Zusak's World War II story without quite capturing its dark originality.
A misfire in far too many meaningful aspects, The Book Thief is so bad that it's tough to decide whether it's better used as a sleep aid or watched while under the influence as an object of derision.
If there can be such a thing as a sweet, reflective fable about death and the Holocaust, The Book Thief is it.
San Francisco Chronicle:
Has some wrong notes and touches of preciousness, but mostly it's a moving and effective presentation of life under Nazism, as seen from an unusual angle.
Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Given the tough-minded tone of many young adult books turned to films, "The Book Thief's" frolicsome tone feels dated and inappropriate.
Sarah Bryan Miller,
St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Screenwriter Michael Petroni has done a first-rate job of adapting Zusak's book. Director Brian Percival's pace is sometimes leisurely, but the small moments are important, and the ending is quietly memorable.
And so another awards season brings another film (adapted from another international bestseller) offering up the unrelated and uncontroversial lessons that reading is good and Nazis are bad.
The narrative rushes through Nazi book burnings, Kristallnacht, the roundup of Jews and Hitler's fury over the Olympic triumph of Jesse Owens, a surface treatment of major events that barely conveys the horror of the times.
Where the book had a kernel of intellectual irony to it-words betray a nation-this drama goes shamelessly for the heart.
With superficial sleekness, it flattens the intricate story to excessive simplicity.
Percival -- who has directed numerous episodes of Downton Abbey -- approaches the material earnestly, but when it veers into the territory of literary preciousness, he doesn't know how to rein it in.
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.