Saturday, June 21, 2008

I just endured M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening." I knew it was getting bad reviews, but what highly anticipated movie doesn't? Plus, I checked Roger Ebert's review and found it encouraging, if not exactly gushing. (I was particularly struck by the poignancy and subtlety cited by Ebert and purchased my ticket expecting a thoughtful new take on a shopworn, if dependable, theme.)

If only I'd trusted the bad reviews. For a movie ostensibly about the fragile balance of life on Earth, "The Happening" is conspicuously devoid of vitality. Shyamalan has crafted an ecological cautionary movie for people who've never seen an ecological cautionary movie -- and a worrisome self-portrait of a skilled film-maker who doesn't seem to realize he's on the verge of irrelevancy.

The characters in "The Happening" are mere sketches, static and uninteresting. The plot -- what there is of it -- is no more than an excuse for Shyamalan's characters to wander a dull New England countryside, where they're predictably picked off by their arboreal assailants.

Oh, there are some intriguing moments. Even a few brushes with the kind of quiet menace evidenced in "Signs." But they're fleeting and under-realized: gems left unexcavated for no real reason exept, one suspects, sheer laziness. For the most part we're left with a grind of a movie, as unarresting as it is unoriginal -- and capped by an ending so palpably condescending and unscary you'll want to take the movie's token graphic violence to heart and slit your wrists with the nearest possible sharp object.


Anonymous said...

I find his stories weak and without merit. Hollywood can apply lipstick, but a pig is still a pig!


Mac said...

Shyamalan's a gimmick-monger: a neat gig, but only so long as you've got something cool up your sleeve.

mister ecks said...

This movie is quite enjoyable if viewed as a comedy. I've never laughed so hard at a movie that wasn't meant to be funny.

mister ecks said...

This is going to go down in history as a camp classic, mark my words.

Mac said...

I found it totally unenjoyable. I didn't laugh, I didn't empathize, I didn't care.

I predict this movie will be quietly forgotten!

mister ecks said...

Don't get me wrong, it's a terrible film that fails at everything it tries to accomplish. But it's SO bad, SO wrong at every step I couldn't help but laugh.

Maybe I've seen too many Ed Wood movies, but how can one not appreciate the absurdity of the protagonists running from the wind? The majesty of Mark Whalbergh's unceasingly furrowed brow? The spectacle of a man casually feeding himself to a bunch of lions, to which a woman responds "what kind of terrorists are these?"

So much unintentional ridiculousness that If I didn't know better I'd think the film was a piss-take.

Mac said...

Mark Whalberg's brow -- yep, I've now seen enough of it to last a few lifetimes.

Paul Kimball said...

I remember when MNS was lauded as the next Hitchcock. Now he stands revealed as a one-trick pont who is absolutely incapable of telling a compelling story, from start to finish - the first 20 minutes of The Happening showed promise, but then... ugh.

With any luck, this will be the film that relegates him to what he should be doing... movies of the week for some penny ante specialty network.

Mac said...


My thoughts exactly. "The Happening" was TV movie fare at best.