Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Happening

Year: 2008
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Ashlyn Sanchez

When I first heard about this film, I hated the tagline (cheap pop for the director's past work), I hated the title (not very inspiring) and I hated the idea of Mark Wahlberg being in it. But hey, it's M. Night Shyamalan's movie. That alone is reason enough to check it out.

The Happening begins in Central Park in New York, where all of a sudden, people start killing themselves. Then the phenomenon spreads. People start jumping off buildings and shooting themselves. People in nearby Philadelphia, who hear about all this on the news, start evacuating, thinking that it could be a virus or a terrorist attack that's causing all this.

Philly high school science teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) quickly takes his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel) and joins his best friend Julian (John Leguizamo) and his daughter Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez) in leaving the city. As they travel alongside thousands of other people, they hear more distressing news about mass deaths occurring, and the mysterious attack continues to follow them wherever they go. So what exactly is happening?

Well, when you figure out the answer to that, you'd probably think the same thing I did. It's stupid. I mean, it's not like it's a completely far fetched idea. But the execution was very poor. The way it happens, the way it's explained, and the way the characters react to it. All poor. Where's the fear Shyamalan put in us when he showed us the dead in The Sixth Sense? Where's the fear we saw so evident on Haley Joel Osment's face on any of the characters here? With the exception of Leguizamo and Sanchez, everyone here either gets a bad script to read out of or their acting just plain sucks.

Wahlberg is an inconsistent actor, which is why I never liked him, and I hated the fact that he got an Oscar nod for The Departed. And here, he proves me right. Never once did he convince me that he's a high school teacher in this film, and he tries too hard in half of his scenes. Deschanel on the other hand looks so lost, she probably doesn't know which film she's in. Pretty to look at, but can't act to save herself here.

The good part is, it is quite scary to see people suddenly take their own lives for no reason at all. Some of the scenes will shock you, though the scenes where a guy feeds himself to the lions and another guy putting himself in the path of a moving lawnmower were overkill. These built up the story quite nicely, until we get to the third act of the film, when the leads meet a weird old lady who offers them shelter. I don't know what the heck she's doing in this film.

Basically, this film is about how Mother Nature reacts to humans in the wake of evolution and all the negative impacts, like pollution and global warming etc. But Shyamalan is simply out of his element here. Lady In The Water, which most critics hated, at least had quirky characters that helped move the story along. In The Happening, none of the characters are interesting enough to hold your attention, resulting in the 91 minute screen time feel so much longer than it should.

This film isn't happening (yeah I know most critics used this same line to shoot this film down, but I couldn't help using it too), another miss from M. Night. (2.5/5)

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