Monday, May 9, 2011

The Happening

Credentials: 18% Certified Rotten ( / 5.2 out of 10 ( / 34 out of 100 (
Plot: A high school science teacher (Mark Wahlberg) and his painfully uninteresting lady friend (Zooey Deschanel) watch as all around them people start offing themselves in increasingly outlandish and cartoonish ways. Is it the end of days? Who’s causing it--- our government, terrorists or even more terrifying: plants? What’s… happening? Better question: What happened to the guy who directed such films as “The Sixth Sense,” “Signs” and “Unbreakable?” Can we have that guy back because this other one sucks.
Thoughts: Ladies and gentlemen, “The Happening” represents what I believe to be a first in the history of Hollywood: the unintentional self-parody.
              If you gave Trey Parker and Matt Stone a bazillion dollars, they couldn't do a better job of making fun of "Happening" writer / director M. Night Shyamalan than Shyamalan himself does by accident.

                The horrible writing, the goofy twists, the wooden characters. All Shyamalan staples since “Signs.”
                And I don’t just pull Parker and Stone’s names out of the blue either.
                Anyone who has seen an episode of “South Park,” is well versed in the pair’s penchant for finding morbid yet side-splitting humor in extreme, over-the-top violence.
                For his first ever R-rated film, Shyamalan seems to key in on that, only he doesn’t realize that on “South Park,” the violence is played for laughs.
                Forgive me, but the scene where people are shown falling off a roof top was intense for maybe the first half dozen or so victims. But once the jumper count starts nearing twenty, you can’t help but laugh.
                Shyamalan has one guy do an impression of Monty Python’s Black Knight with a bunch of tigers, while another decides to start up a lawnmower and then take a nap in front of it.
                Actually, that second one is really good because no one was steering the lawnmower. That has to be the least effective method ever devised to take yourself out with. What’s to say the lawnmower doesn’t promptly make a hard left, hit a tree and stall? Then what do you do?   
                 All of that kind of cartoon violence is just too silly to be taken seriously. It’s the same reason we used to watch horrible things happen to Wile E. Coyote every week and laugh. Or we could watch the “Three Stooges” beat each other with wrenches. At a certain point a line gets crossed and our brains switch over from being appalled by something to being amused by it.
                Shyamalan, if you’ll look behind you, you’ll see that line.
                And it’s not just Shyamalan accidentally making fun of himself either.
                Mark Wahlberg, in an effort to prove his worth as a multidimensional actor, ends up coming across more one dimensional than ever. You’ll pine for just one wise-crack. Or at least one scene where he goes shirtless. Either would be preferable to his mild mannered turn as a science teacher.
                I found myself wondering if his whole performance was the result of a lost bet. I could see Wahlberg on the set of “The Departed” getting triple dog dared by Alec Baldwin to whisper for an entire movie.
                And of course, no one walks away from a triple dog dare. Not even Marky Mark.
                Zooey Deshcanel does everything in her power to burn through all of her indie street cred by turning in a performance so overdone, not even the Disney Channel would accept it.
                But “The Happening” is not all bad.
                Shyamalan manages to elicit some genuine suspense early on, when his characters think they’re facing some sort of terrorist attack. Maybe it’s all the recent talk about bin Laden, but the idea of being stuck in a strange place, while the world falls apart around you is pretty terrifying.
                Sure, he promptly ruins that by throwing in an epic speech on the benefits of hot dogs and endless shots of characters trembling in fear at the sight of trees blowing in the wind. No one’s perfect.
                At least Al Gore would be proud of the ham-handed eco-crusader message Shyamalan wedges into the movie.
The first of many shots depicting the horrors of nature!
I'm not kidding, the ego manic actually gave himself credit for playing the unintelligible voice on the phone.

I'm not sure you've beaten me over the head with your point enough Shyamalan.
Maybe try a little harder next time?

Behold: The only R-rated movie to ever feature the phrase cheese and crackers uttered as a curse!
Forget film school, how about we raise money to buy Shyamalan a
dictionary so he can look up the meaning of the word subtlety?
               And because there are some things that mere screen caps can't do justice:

                So there it is, If you see just one movie where Mark Wahlberg has a conversation with a house plant, make it “The Happening.”
                Bumblebee tuna.

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