Monday, September 8, 2008

The Happening

I generally tend to give M. Night Shyamalan the benefit of the doubt. I have liked a lot of his movies that have been panned by the media. I liked Lady In The Water and The Village in spite of the average reviews they got. I also enjoy Mark Wahlberg who seems to consistently portray edgy nearly over-the-top characters with an unbelievable believability. The Happening combines the talents of Shyamalan and Wahlberg to create a decent science fiction piece that might not work if cast differently. M. Night Shymalan wrote this film. The writing was crisp although the plot sometimes slugged along. There could have been a tendency to drift into overt preachiness that Shyamalan deftly avoided. I am not a proponent of Global Warning in spite of the fact I love my planet. The science is mixed and the message gets diluted when every event (to include tomatoes with salmonella) get blamed on the alleged phenomena. There were subtle references to climate change in this film without relying on unproven science to make the film work. The dialogue was excellent with some comical language usage mixed in with good drama. The characters were fairly well developed. John Leguizamo plays a math teacher who is good friends with Elliot Moore, the character played by Wahlberg. I really like Leguizamo (another guy who trends toward the edgy characters), however, this character lacked the depth of some of his past performances. I really didn't feel connected to the character. The strongest character in this film had very few lines...Jess (played by Ashlyn Sanchez) is Julian's daughter, who ends up in the care of Elliot Moore and his wife Alma. Ashlyn Sanchez is a beautiful young lady who helped create suspense (in Shyamalan style) just by her mere presence in the story. The directing had a lot to do with it, but she did not overplay the part. Alma was played by Zooey Deschanel. I have mixed feelings regarding her and her character. I cared about her character due to the writing, but she really didn't impress me. She has haunting eyes that were shown with an eerie distance just a little too often. She seemed a little dim-witted more than lost in deep thought. Another strong yet brief performance was delivered by Betty Buckley. Her character was anachronism that fit nicely into the film. Her sharp dialogue was well written and equally well delivered. The special effects in this movie were limited. A lot of the special effects were delivered with a gentle subtlety that allowed you to create your own conclusions. The spreading of whatever was causing "The Happening" was depicted in gentle breezes or sometimes rushing winds which created great suspense. Something simple like blowing grass was given an insidiousness that you wouldn't normally associate with such an innocuous event. The violence was graphic at times with special effects that were decent. There were some gunshot wounds that were not very convincing. Overall, the special effects were limited, but well done.

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