Wife and I saw M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening last night, which when you factor in the price of gas and babysitting and popcorn, makes us more investors in Shyamalan’s flick than viewers. Without giving anything away, I can tell you the movie continues Shyamalan’s trend of coming up with fascinating ideas, drawing us in with haunting early scenes, and then dissipating our goodwill with clunky dialogue, moments that earnestly strive for importance only to yield inadvertent comedy, and, in an unfortunate twist for Shyamalan, violence that is frequently grotesque without being convincing. This movie is, in short, very much like pro wrestling.
He’s made some stinkers before, but he also made The Sixth Sense, to which I’m sure he’s tired of having his other films compared, but which remains the primary reason many of us keep coming, in hope, to his offerings. If you’re wondering where this movie fits on the Shyamalan Scale of one to five, where The Sixth Sense is a seven and Lady in the Water is the cube root of pi, The Happening is a solid three. Not as good as Signs or even The Village, but better than Unbreakable, which itself was mostly forgiveable, except for Samuel L. Jackson’s unfortunate hairdo.
Despite my disappointment, I keep rooting for Shyamalan. While the major motion picture studios seem at a loss to produce anything but big-budget interpretations of comic books, remakes of movies that were second-rate the first time around, gross-out vehicles posing as comedy, and the occasional quasi-indie film whose merit stands in inverse proportion to their influence over its production, Shyamalan is a visionary. He just can’t seem to execute — on dialogue, plot, or direction (how does anyone make Zooey Deschanel irrelevant in nearly every scene but her last???), which means that ultimately his vision disappears.
I hope he continues making films, though. I’ll keep coming to see them, plunking down my money and hoping that his vision, once again, is supported by his craftwork, rather than undone by it.
And now, my one-line take on the film, for those of you who want a good quip to explain it to your friends. This probably qualifies as a spoiler, however, so consider this your SPOILER ALERT, and avert your eyes if you want absolutely no hints about the movie’s content.
The Happening is Maximum Overdrive with hydrangeas. You heard it here first.