My Mood Ring Indicates Laughter, 17 June 2008
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA
Some mysterious “event” causes people in the Northeast to start killing themselves (loved the Philadelphia Zoo scene!) and forces an unhappy couple (Mark Whalberg and Zooey Deschanel) to work on their marriage problems lest they die. The audience is put on the ground level as people react in different ways to the impending doom and the need to escape creates heightened paranoia. The half-decent set-up combined with an unintentionally funny screenplay make M. Night Shyamalan’s eco-disaster flick The Happening the most entertaining bad movie you’ll see all year.
Shyamalan has developed into a truly unique breed of director over the past decade. He’s capable of crafting a decent thriller (The Sixth Sense) but he’s also been responsible for one the worst films ever made (Signs) and some of the dumbest movies I have ever seen (Wide Awake and Lady in the Water). Whereas his tactics in Signs made me angry, I noticed something in Lady in the Water that gave me a perverse sense of hope. That film was so bad, it was almost good. With The Happening, Shyamalan has finally crossed that threshold, and he’s done it without irony or camp. He takes himself dead seriously, and he’s crafted the crap in The Happening beautifully. Special nods go to cinematographer Tak Fujimoto (who has become the premier photographer of trees and grass blowing in the wind) and James Newton Howard’s excellent film score.
In Shyamalan’s “Twilight Zone” universe, the scenes meant to be suspenseful or scary are instead hilarious, the moments meant to be emotional become banal, and the lines meant to be funny fall completely flat. The dialog in The Happening is so bad I think the academy should go back and take away his best screenplay nomination for The Sixth Sense. Watching poor Mark Whalberg (completely unbelievable as a science teacher who figures out what is happening) give what is possibly the worst performance of the last ten years makes you wonder how Shyamalan was ever able to direct Toni Collette and Haley Joel Osment to Oscar nods. Shyamalan leaves his cast, like the plants in the film, to blow in the wind without giving them a single helpful direction.
Despite all this, I have to admit I loved every stupid piece of this movie from Zooey Deschanel’s high-as-a-kite performance to the mood ring to Mark Whalberg talking to a potted plant to the crazy old lady in the woods to the people walking backwards. Shyamalan has performed a miracle by finally crafting another film that is suspenseful, but in all the wrong ways. When I wasn’t busy laughing, I was on the edge of my seat wondering when the film would finally dive off the deep end into complete idiocy, and it did in that “rifle” scene on the porch of the boarded-up house. Unlike an Uwe Boll who never showed a lick of talent, or a Michael Bay who has some technical skills but edits his films to the point of being unwatchable, Shyamalan has become an awful director whose films are completely watchable…and dare I say it…enjoyable.
Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database: