6.14.2008

Nothing Happening

I love parodies and spoofs. I loved that Simpsons episode in which the kids sneak off to watch “The Bloodening”, a British horror film with creepy kids using phrases like “And doctor, we know that you and the bootblack have been rogering the fishwife in the crumpetshop!”, whatever that means. I also find myself pondering an episode with the following exchange:

Homer: “Wait, I'm confused about the movie. So the cops knew that internal affairs were setting them up?”
Cult Guy: “What are you talking about? There is nothing like that in there!”
Homer: “Oh, you see when I get bored I make up my own movie. I have a very short attention span.”


With The Happening, M. Night Shyamalan has unfortunately crossed the line into Simpson-esque self-parody, and thanks to some friends with great humor, I managed to escape into a much funnier comedy. I've liked all of Shyamalan's movies, even the last two that weren't as good as his first three, but I can't even defend this. I wanted to see The Incredible Hulk but my friends outvoted me. Even though B13 heard a reviewer describe it as “the crappening”, he still wanted to see it opening night to avoid finding out the “twist”. I think M. Night dispensed with twists a few movies ago, and defends this film in advance by having a teacher tell his students that scientists come up with explanations, which in the end are just theories, and we never really know what actually happens. As soon as I heard that bit of dialogue, I knew that no matter how many times variations of the word “happen” were used, nothing would actually happen or be concretely explained.

That teacher, by the way, was played by a Mark Wahlberg from an alternate universe in which his line reading is more forced than Broderick's in Godzilla. I read one theory that Wahlberg is great at playing tough guys, but to play a calm, gentle guy was too much of a stretch for him. I can just imagine the conversation when he was discussing the role...

Night: “So, your character is a science teacher.”

Marky-Mark: “So you wants I should play faggy?”

Night: “What? No, no your character is married to a cute woman played by Zooey Deschanel. He's calm and rational, but also has a romantic side. You see, he has a sentimental attachment to a particular trinket he gave her...”

Marky-Mark: “But he's a teacher, right? Not like a coach? Alls my teachers was kinda faggy, especially if he's some science nerd being all sentimental with his ho and sh*t.”

Night: “I'm sorry, didn't you just win an award for The Departed? Look, never mind, play it any way you want, just so long as you'll take the part. Your name should sell a few tickets.”

Marky-Mark: “Aw, yeah! It's such a good vibration! It's such a sweet sensation!”


Wahlberg spends most of the movie running around with his eyes wide open, speaking slowly, deliberately, and a bit higher than normal. 90% of his dialogue is explaining the plot of the movie, even things that you're watching. And when he flees from whatever it is that causes the “happening” to happen, he'll often pause to turn and look in to the camera. You'd think this would defeat the purpose of fleeing if you stop short of sanctuary, but somehow things work in his favor. His best unintentionally funny scene involves a conversation with a plant, I kid you not. The funniest character has to be the hot dog afficianado. Someday when you pick up a discount DVD of this movie, you'll understand what that means.

Save your money. The trailer showed every good scene, which happens in the first fifteen minutes. The next hour has people running in fields trying to outrace the wind, and doing other inexplicably dumb things. Then we go to France. There's a lot of atmosphere without substance, and there's almost a good concept in there somewhere. Unfortunately, between bad acting and no true payoff, I walked away quite disappointed, and I'm normally very forgiving of movies most people hate. I had fun only because my friends and others in the audience kept cracking up.

From the trailers, you might surmise the premise involves people suddenly committing mass suicide. The film offers a possible cause, which I'll SPOIL to save you money: plants adapt to defend themselves against people ruining the planet, and release toxins that affect people's brain chemistry. Why they only do this for one day in Northeastern America is anyone's guess, though early signs of the problem seem to be the mass disappearance of bees mentioned in the trailer. For his first “R” rated movie, the gory scenes are comical. Honestly, one video capture of a dude running around in a lion's cage after having his arms ripped off looked like an SNL sketch. Since they talk so much about the plant toxin being the cause, especially so early in the movie, I doubt that was the true reason everyone started killing themselves. I think they saw this movie.

So, to sum up:

1) Wahlberg acts like a wuss and has wooden line reading.

2) Plants make people kill themselves.

3) People try to outrun the wind.

4) Wahlberg talks to a plant.

Spend theater prices at your own peril....

6 Comments:

OpenID agoldenworld said...

M. Night Shamalamadingdong really has a flare for one thing. Taking a 10 minute short with a twist and making the twist the whole movie. Ever since the Sixth Sense, EVERY single film has been predictable. Even so much to when I saw The Village, I guessed they lived in the modern age and the whole monsters in the forest was a ruse to live an amish lifestyle within the first five minutes of the film. Bah.

With M. Night, it's not even a rental for me. Though with my summer budget, I'm aiming for The Dark Knight and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. That's it.

6/14/2008 1:23 AM  
Blogger b13 said...

This post was a million times more entertaining than the movie itself.

6/14/2008 10:55 AM  
Blogger SwanShadow said...

I've never understood what people find appealing about Shyamalan's films.

I figured out the "twist" in The Sixth Sense at the end of the first scene -- as should anyone who'd ever seen Carnival of Souls (or watched more than a few episodes of The Twilight Zone).

Unbreakable was about as exciting as watching corn grow in Iowa, and completely ignorant of how comic books are made (original comic art isn't in color, for one thing).

I sat through Signs and The Village only because my daughter insisted on watching them when they first appeared on HBO, costing me a total of four hours of precious life energy that I can never recoup.

Why do studios keep giving this guy money to throw away on his pretentious, formulaic trash?

6/14/2008 2:15 PM  
Blogger MCF said...

The first time I saw the Sixth Sense, we arrived a little late, just after the first scene; perhaps that's why it was less obvious. I do remember that moment of revelation vividly though, as Rey's brother shouted out to the theater, "He's ____?! This is the best movie EVER!!!!"

Unbreakable may be one of my favorite movies of all time, from the general look of things in hindsight to the subtle incorporation of comic mythology. A child of 80s and 90s comics, I perceived reverence rather than inaccuracy.

I liked Signs quite a bit too, and some scenes like the newscast were genuinely creepy. With each subsequent film, it seems less about twist and more about atmosphere, and the cast and performances in the first three films go a long way to support that. I didn't hate The Village, though I didn't love it either. I thought Lady in the Water was a much better effort, and should be judged separate from the rest. It was just a straightforward fairy tale with no real twist, an adaptation of stories Night told his kids, made into a movie with probably more personal significance to him.

I have to wonder if the Happening wouldn't have been better with a stronger lead. Bruce Willis is probably the best actor he's worked with, and Paul Giamatti probably would have been better suited for the teacher role that Marky Mark butchered.

I think we might have to accept Night as a one-hit wonder with a few decent follow-up singles and no strong overall discography.

Crazy Old Lady: "You're gonna kill me in my sleep!"

Wahlberg: "Whaaaat? Nooo..." (as wide-eyed and unconvincingly as possible to the point that I expected him to be brandishing a knife behind his back)

6/14/2008 8:04 PM  
Blogger Lorna said...

I'm with B13

6/15/2008 9:12 PM  
Blogger Frank Reed said...

Yea, this movie was a self-parody. But just to make sure the message got across, I made a parody myself. See THE CRAPPENING: THE HAPPENING PARODY here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hx16epbyj9g

For best results, be sure to watch the high-quality version!

6/24/2008 7:27 PM  

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