I am not the biggest fan of The Mortal Instruments book series. I think I read the fourth book, but I wouldn't swear to it in a court of law. I kept up with the books that long because they were decent cheesy fun, but it felt like they were starting to cannibalize themselves. (I do think Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices trilogy is more original and interesting.)
However, Jeanette Catsoulis' review for The New York Times made the movie The Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones sound like a ridiculous, but fun time. Thus, after a too long day at the office (5:40 is just wrong on a Friday), I headed to the theater. (Okay, I headed to somewhere to eat, and then I shopped at Target, and then I went to the 8:15 showing.)
The cast does a good job. Lily Collins made a negative impression on me in Mirror, Mirror (a film I couldn't like despite my best intentions), but here she's got a nice bit of attitude and determination to carry her through Clary's bewilderment. Jamie Campbell Bower looks wonderful in motion, and gives Jace a nice bit of vulnerability to temper his cockiness. The adults are all fine, as long as you don't mind Jonathan Rhys Meyers chewing the scenery in a manner that will almost make you forget that his character's actions make no sense. As Valentine, he's also strangely sexual with Jace and Clary, given that he's trying to convince him that he's their father. The weakest acting link is probably Kevin Zegers, but then again, he's saddled with the thankless storyline of over-the-top jealousy and cattiness.
And okay, I'd probably bump the movie up any mental grade because it has CCH Pounder in it, and I've loved her since I first saw Baghdad Cafe. She's in fine form here as an agoraphobic witch, a small but crucial role.
"Small but crucial" defines most of what happens in TMI: COB. There's a lot being thrown at the audience, and I suspect much of it doesn't make much sense unless you've read the book. There are a bunch of characters, a bunch of creatures, and a couple of goals (the cup and Clary's mom). I doubt many moviegoers will be satisfied by the resolution, which shows absolutely no one worried about Jocelyn, still in a coma.
It's a better movie than I expected, for fans of the book. If you liked the story, I'd go ahead and see it. (Or rent it once it's out on video.) But I doubt it will appeal much to other audiences, because it's overstuffed and too derivative. Also, there was no place to mention this earlier, but the now frequently mocked pop-song-playing-over-makeout-in-the-greenhouse scene deserves to be mocked. It's too cheesy even for TMI: COB.
General movie note: Recent parents, I know you still have lives and want to get out of the house. But if you're going out with your baby, a late-night Friday showing of a PG-13 movie on the weekend it's released is not the place to do it.