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M Night Shyamalan’s The Happening: A 4 out of 10 Movie Review

Submitted by on June 20, 2008 – 5:51 pmNo Comment
Well another two years have gone by since the mediocrity that was Lady in the Water and M. Night Shyamalan has made another film to confuse and baffle us all. Let's look at the legendary director’s history. He started with The which amazed us with its fantastic twist. Unbreakable followed this fine film and despite not being as popular as the it was an enjoyable watch. Similarly Signs (Shyamalan’s third film) was an enjoyable watch. There appeared to be a talent in the director / writer / producer to create suspense in the movies he made. However, this very good run of films (critically) came crashing to an end with The Village and Lady in the Water. Both films were watchable, but so is the original Care Bears movie. That doesn’t necessarily mean people will be prepared to pay to watch the film or even own the DVD (myself not included).

Nevertheless, M.Night has persisted in creating tension in the build up of his latest film . The posters and trailers looked intriguing and the cast looked suitable. However, when you start being known for twists in films, the public expect them. In truth, I imagine that many cinema goers didn’t much like his later films, due to the fact that there were no great twists in the story. Unfortunately, this does not deter the marketing geniuses from selling him as the “master of twisty tales” and giving very little away of the film in promotional trailers. This is a pointless exercise in as you will read later.

It is difficult then, to review a film that claims to have key plot points hidden from the audience until they pay their money. Here at four out of ten, we do not reveal twists in storylines and spoilers. What we do here is review the film and tell you our opinion. I say “we” and “our” but in fact all of the reviews to date have been made by an extremely uptight British man, angrily hammering out his review on a kitchen table somewhere in Surrey. I digress: the fact is that everyone going to this film will expect a twist. It is not a spoiler to say that the twist in the film is that there is no twist! Think about it. Did you like Unbreakable? Yes? Well, would you still have enjoyed it without the ending? Think about the same with The Usual Suspects and The Sixth Sense. Would you really enjoy a film made by M. Night without a twist? I can answer that for you: NO! No you would not! I can even tell you why:

The “serious” actor stars in this movie alongside the very wooden and scary looking (in my opinion) accompanied by a girl and her father (). People are strangely committing suicide everywhere. Wow! Scary! Well I’m sure that was the plan anyway. Marky Mark plays a Biology teacher (yes, you read me correctly) very unconvincingly. He can play a convincing arrogant state cop who hates everyone (The Departed) or a stroppy private in the army (Renaissance Man) and even a dodgy porn star (Boogie Nights). What he does not play convincingly is that of a Biology Teacher. Surely you cannot imagine that your doddery old Biology teacher looking anything like the very toned, the very manly: Marky Mark. A man seemingly so obsessed with himself (again, allegedly) that he feels the need to refer to himself twice.

You get the feeling that Zooey Deschanel was hired because M Night sought an actress who could do “wooden” and “emotionless” incredibly well and that Keanu Reeves wouldn’t suit a dress. She has the onscreen aura of a cigarette burn and as equally forgettable. In fact, she and Keanu Reeves should work together on a film. The film could be called “Woody: No it’s not a rude film” or “Mr and Mrs Wooden”. These are the types of movies that I expect from this type of acting. She was horribly miscast and has no chemistry at all with our favourite actor with two first names.

Another very unconvincing teacher is that of John Leguizamo (a name that I’m glad I never have to say out loud). His glasses wearing persona gives us the instant knowledge that he is a mathematics professor capable of spouting those awful math riddles that everyone hates when you are 12. In fact, the specific riddle I am talking about is one which ends “how much money would I have after a month”. Immediately, I could have challenged this incapable four-eyed nuisance and assured him that it depends which month of the year (and even what year specifically) and that more information would be required to answer such a tedious question. Admittedly, he plays a more appropriate role in “To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything. Julie Newmar”. A part he plays almost entirely in drag.

On to the storyline which plays like a cross between the Day of the Triffids and Mr Wooden goes to Woodenville (okay, so the second film mentioned is a complete fabrication, but I do hope you all get my point). In fact, it is worse than Day of the Triffids. At least in that cheesy film, you got to see the damn killer plants. / trees / air / nuclear attack / whatever / who cares anyway. In this film, you merely get a whisper of a threat. People start dropping like flies around them, which should scare the out of you, but in fact is a reminder of the last time you went clubbing on a Friday night (surrounded by those awful creatures called “students”). Yes, it’s “share a bullet day”. Somehow watching everyone pick up a gun, kill themselves then drop it for the next person to pick it up and repeat the process, reminds you of a bunch of hippies sharing a joint around a campfire! Some of the dialogue is just lazy. Zooey’s character sees dessert as infidelity and there is just an awful scene with Marky Mark actually talking to a plant. The effect is supposed to be comical, but comes across as simply sad. It would have felt more in place if the audience was scared (or thrilled) in the first place. Unfortunately we were not scared; merely bored. In truth, they could have made a better film if it was just a walk through the countryside on a sunny afternoon. There is only a glimpse of the coming together (and division) of strangers in desperate situations that so perfectly fits into films such as these. This was just a wasted opportunity. Depth of characters was needed, along with depth of storyline, depth of tension (of which admittedly M. Night Shyamalan is usually very good at) and much more claustrophobia. What Shyamalan really should have done was to scrap this awful tale of disappointment and given us the Unbreakable sequel still presently bouncing round his mind. At least then (being a sequel) we could expect a load of rubbish before we walk into the Cinema.

Shyamalan, it seems has decided to take a more “behind the camera” approach thankfully. His cameo is almost unnoticeable. Supporting characters do their best with strange plant loving hippies, mad old ladies and bouncing builders, but the fact is they are working with something that is simply substandard.

I loved the Sixth Sense, thought Unbreakable was great along with Signs, was slightly disappointed by The Village and not very happy with Lady in the Water. With The Happening I am feeling like most of the characters in it and am presently seeking a nearby skyscraper to fling myself off! I am utterly and completely disappointed with this Mr Shyamalan. Good premise, but sorely wasted.

Rating: 1 out of 5

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