Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Watching Bad Movies So You Don’t Have To: Rickey’s Review of “The Happening”

“Holy Mother of God…Christ on an Accordion… Meandering Moses… This is an incredibly bad movie.” -Rickey Henderson, RwR

Always on the lookout for a punching bag, Rickey has chosen M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening” to discuss in our latest movie review column. Since Rickey will do whatever it takes to persuade his readers that there is no reason on god’s green earth for anyone to suffer through this cinematic atrocity, we’ll go ahead and spoil the whole damn movie for you. Essentially, the film boils down to plants rising up and killing people. And this premise is so poorly executed that rather than coming off as a biting environmental parable, this movie will most likely set the efforts of Greenpeace back roughly 25 years. Most of the movie consists of images of wind rustling through the trees followed by the actors who have the great misfortune of appearing in this movie suddenly freezing up and killing themselves in the most accessible manner possible. As people begin killing themselves en masse, the movie quickly shifts from Shyamalan’s all too familiar stomping grounds of Philadelphia to the all too familiar Pennsylvania countryside setting that we’ve seen a bazillion times before in his movies. We wonder, does this guy ever leave the state? Is this a Roman Polanski type of situation where he’ll be arrested on sight for making shitty narcissistic movies if he travels outside the state of Pennsylvania?

Of course, this being an M. Night Shyamalan movie, there’s no concrete explanation how or why this “plants killing humans” event is occurring (or is even remotely scary) because the real focus in his films is a rather curious phenomenon that he likes to refer to as “human drama.” And what a compelling drama we are presented with: Mark Wahlberg unsuccessfully trying to convince us that he’s a high school science teacher, Zooey Deschanel unsuccessfully trying to convince us that she hails from this planet, and John Leguizamo unsuccessfully trying to convince us that his performance in “Spawn” was a cinematic opus compared to the sheer awfulness that Rickey had to suffer through. In the film, the big threat to Wahlberg and Deschanel’s marriage is that she had dessert with one of her co-workers. Dessert. Nothing more. We’re sorry, but in his insistence on writing the scripts for all his own movies, Shyamalan appears to have completely lost touch with how people actually speak and behave. In the Shyamalan universe, characters walk around, saying their thoughts out loud. Who does that?

Overall, it’s your typical Shyamalan movie, with acting performances ranging from “sleepy” to “legally comatose.” Toss in a dash of that old timey religion, a cynical look at human nature in times of crisis, and a magical mood ring that somehow saves the day and you’ve easily got the worst movie of 2008. Even the scares that the movie attempts to conjure up seem stale in comparison to the ones from the director’s previous films. And Shyamalan, in his latest proto-Hitchcockian indulgence, makes an off-screen cameo as the guy who sends a text message to Mark Wahlberg’s wife. No joke—it actually states this in the credits. Rickey would go on an angry rant about the massive chutzpah at work here, but we’re scared that Shyamalan would kill Rickey off in his next movie like he did with the critic in “Lady in the Water”…

The sad thing is, Rickey enjoyed Shyamalan’s early movies and now Rickey can’t even bring himself to defend the guy. Rickey may be in the minority on this, but “Signs” was a very well written and all around great film (and arguably the high water mark for Shyamalan’s career). That scene where Mel Gibson sits with his family at the dinner table and cries and eats mashed potatoes at the same time… well, we’re sorry, but that’s just all around great stuff. For those critics who take issue with “Signs” and whine about how illogical it is for aliens to conquer a planet that’s 75% water (which kills ‘em), remember: who’s to say that invading aliens wouldn’t be as woefully short sighted as the Bush Administration was when it invaded Iraq? And while we’re talking politics, Rickey also dug “The Village” which despite it’s numerous flaws, is one helluva great parable about American closed mindedness and paranoia in the wake of the 9-11 attacks. Ultimately, what is most disappointing about “The Happening” is that judging by his past work, Shyamalan really does appear to have something meaningful to say, but this movie’s overall crappiness totally overwhelms it. Rickey’s verdict: even hardened M. Night apologists will want to steer well clear of this one. Rickey’s just glad he didn’t pay to see it. Now if you’ll excuse Rickey, his fingers ache from typing the word “Shyamalan” ad nauseam…

Stumble Upon Toolbar

18 comments:

Mark said...

Great review Rickey! I'm just glad you didn't have to SAY Shyamalan a couple of dozen times. m.

leigh said...

plants? really? wow. thanks for saving me $7.50.

that's really too bad because the sixth sense and unbreakable were creepy cool.

Flug Mexico said...

I was supposed to see the movie, but due to your very good review I regret. Pfff... I can´t undestand why they make so bad stuff.

Rickey Henderson said...

Mark: the correct pronunciation is of course "shamalamadingdong"

Leigh: yep, plants. Tall grass swaying in the wind and leaves on trees rustling. Evidently they give off some kind of toxic pheromone that drives people bonkers. Terrifying, right?

Flug: they make bad stuff because the movie industry is creatively bankrupt and fishing for ideas. Rickey will say this much: at least "The Happening" tried to be original. Where as the latest installment of "Scary Movie" or whatever is just maddeningly mindlesss.

Haley said...

Loved Six Sense.

Willing to forgive and forget after Unbreakable -- a minor cinematic infraction.

LOVEDLOVEDLOVED Signs.

Kept feeling the love with The Village (although if you watch the extras on the DVD, you'll want to ball gag Bryce Dallas Howard...).

Was one of three people willing to admit they enjoyed Lady in the Water (maybe because Bryce Dallas Howard gets mauled...).

But I draw the line at The Happening. That guy needs to get reigned in.

I'm going to go outside and weed now...tell my parents I love them.

Anonymous said...

My friends convinced me to watch this movie, despite never seeing an M. Night Salamander film and hating most horror movies.

While this wasn't really horror, it was pure crap.

It was the only movie where I thought about asking for my $8.25 back.

Adam said...

Tell me you didn't pay for this....

Chris C said...

"...this movie will most likely set the efforts of Greenpeace back roughly 25 years"

See? There was something good about that movie.

I agree on the Village. I liked that one as well. The problem I think was that it was marketed as a horror film which led to expectations the movie couldn't live up to.

Rickey Henderson said...

Adam: second to last sentence. No, no, and no. Rickey did not pay to see this. "Project Free TV" is Rickey's friend.

Sassdawg. said...

Ricky,

I just got done reading your job interview skills seminar. Great piece, I am going to let you in on a little tip. My boy Chaz calls me up today and tells me how he got the worlds greatest part time job....Ready for this, Sperm donor....If you make your day to deposit, a Tuesday, you can honor your tradition of No Pants Tuesday.

Diesel said...

I lost hope for his movies when I saw the twist coming halfway through the TRAILER for The Village.

Alex L said...

6 months into the year, and we already have a worst. I gotta say though its the worst title for a movie ever... "the happening", what is that?

Toasty Joe said...

Leigh - $7.50? Really? Are you a senior citizen?

Smitty said...

I'm with alex. The title took no effort at all. It's a title that describes nothing but every day life, every moment, everywhere! THE HAPPENING?? Since 9:00 this morning, happenings have happened constantly. The title took as little effort and inagination as apparently this movie took.

Rickey Henderson said...

Oddly enough, the title was the one thing Rickey didn't mind about this movie. In his defense, most of his movies do have minimalist titles: The Village, Signs, Unbreakable. Sometimes simple is good. "The Thing" isn't an overwhelming title but damned if that's not a stellar movie. Who knows, maybe Shyamalan will spread his wings and call the sequel "The Happening 2: Electric Boogalo."

Alex L said...

"The Happening 2: Electric Boogalo."

Now I'd watch the shit out of that movie...

Ray said...

I paid $0.17 (cost to burn a cd) to watch this movie before it was released and feel like I was robbed of more than just my time....I could of warned you not to watch it.

Pros: It ends eventually

Cons: Directed by the kook Shamallammalaldamegadon

Hands down, one of the worst movies I have ever seen....

AmyV said...

i loved Unbreakable and thought the sixth sense was really good. signs was so-so. the village? blerg. never even bothered with lady in the water. after seeing Hulk, we peeked in on this for half an hour, at which point my husband MADE me leave, which in retrospect was totally the right move.