Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Happening - DVD Review

THE HAPPENING (*1/2) - Starring Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Betty Buckley, Spencer Breslin, Ashlyn Sanchez, Frank Collison and Alan Ruck.
Directed M. Night Shyamalan.

Oh, M. Night Shyamalan. I can't think of a single other filmmaker out there who has had such a steady decline. You can list his movies in order from when he made them and see each one is not as good as the one before it. The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, Lady in the Water, and now The Happening. At least The Last Airbender, his next, is in no way a thriller and doesn't have a twist ending.

What's the scary thing here? Not ghosts, not aliens, not monsters in the woods. The movie doesn't reveal what the danger is here until 45 minutes in, so until then we get some nuttily self-aware dialogue like "Why are you only telling me little pieces of information at a time?" The second half is a band of survivors on the run, and while talented filmmakers could make the most mundane things scary, I simply felt no suspense when Mark Wahlberg tries to outrun the wind. Aagh, the wind! Run!

Some of Night's tricks really fail when Betty Buckley enters the scene as a weirdo isolationist. Someone suddenly there, speaking in strange cadence... making me rest comfortably in the back of my seat rather than putting me on the edge. Night's failing his actors. He did great with Bruce Willis and Mel Gibson, and even Paul Giamatti in a lost cause, but Wahlberg seems lost. I almost wanted him to break into self-parody. ("Hey, tree, how's it going? Say hi to your mother for me.")

So yeah, being on Last Airbender, and hopefully another movie or two he doesn't write himself.

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