Advertisement

Movie Mom

Movie Mom

The Happening

posted by Nell Minow

happening.jpgHere’s a spooky story: a talented storyteller mesmerizes his audience and then loses his way in a thicket of self-regard so that no matter how hard he tries, each of the stories he tells becomes less powerful than the one before.

M. Night Shyamalan is one of the most talented film-makers working today. But he seems to be running out of ideas. He still knows how to use a camera brilliantly and he is still a master of images that are disturbing in an intriguing way. But so much of this movie seem greatest hits cut and pasted from his other, better films, as generic as the title (anyone else here humming the Supremes song?). There is a train as in “Unbreakable.” There is a scene in a schoolroom as in “The Sixth Sense.” A child is important to the story as in “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs.” Like “Signs” there is a scary scene with characters trapped in a beautiful old house in a remote location.

Advertisement

“There appears to be an event happening.” All at once, without warning, people in New York City’s Central park become disoriented and then self-destructive. They begin to kill themselves. Bodies come hurtling from the girders of a construction project. A cop pulls out his gun and kills himself. Others grab the gun lying near his body to shoot themselves with the remaining bullets. Have terrorists released toxins into the air? Is it some kind of alien attack? No one knows.

In Philadelphia, high school science teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) is called out of class. The students are being sent home. He and his best friend Julian (John Leguizamo), a math teacher, decide it will be safer away from the city. Julian’s wife is out of town but will meet up with them. Elliot’s slightly estranged wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel) comes along but insists on sitting alone. Then, in the middle of nowhere, the train stops. “We’ve lost contact,” the conductor tells them. “With whom?” “Everyone.”

Advertisement

Julian goes in search of his wife, leaving his shy daughter with Elliot. And so Elliot, Alma, and the little girl go on the run, not knowing anything about what it is they are running from or where they are running to.

Many of the individual scenes deliver. Shyamalan knows how to create an eerie mood and when to pepper the story with release, whether a gasp or a laugh. But there is some unintentional humor as Elliot and Alma pause to resolve their marital conflicts, natter about a mood ring, and Elliot tries to make conversation with a potted plastic plant. The talented Wahlberg and Deschanel do their best but cannot make much of an impression with cardboard characters and clunky exposition. Wahlberg manages some warmth now and then but Deschanel has little do to but open her eyes wide. Those blue eyes seem to be Shyamalan’s favorite special effect. The exposition is intrusively inserted and clumsily handled. And in the last half hour, just as things should be ramping up, all of the air rushes out like a stuck balloon. Shyamalan does not always have to deliver a twist, but he does have to deliver an ending better than this one.

Advertisement

Parents should know that this movie has a good deal of violence, some graphic, multiple suicides, shooting death of teenagers, mauling by an animal, some grisly images of wounds and dead bodies, disturbing themes including the deaths of hundreds of people, and brief strong language. There is a sexual joke and there are some mild references to infidelity.

Family discussion: Julian has to make a very difficult choice between protecting his wife and protecting his daughter. What were the reasons for the decision he made and do you agree? What other choices made by the people in this movie seemed right or wrong to you?

If you like this, try: Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” the classic thriller “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (the original and first remake) and M. Night Shyamalan movies “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs”

Previous Posts

Interview: Stephen "tWitch" Boss of "Magic Mike XXL"
I asked actor/dancer Stephen "tWitch" Boss whether it was as much fun to make "Magic Mike XXL" as it looked, and he said, "Absolutely and even ...

posted 3:45:10pm Jun. 30, 2015 | read full post »

Exclusive Clip: All Creatures Big and Small -- FREE for a Limited Time on Google Play
[jwvideo vid='OljUWfMd' pid='GvkPWNBE'] Martin Sheen and Amy Grant provide the voices in this animated animal adventure inspired by Noah's Ark, from Entertainment One (eOne). "All Creatures Big and Small" will be available for free for a ...

posted 3:44:16pm Jun. 30, 2015 | read full post »

Critics: Which Movies Get Childhood Right?
Thanks to Sam Adams and Indiewire for including me in their survey of critics about our favorite movies from the perspective of a child.  Here was my answer: "To Kill a Mockingbird" somehow captures the voice of the novel in allowing us to see ...

posted 11:09:45pm Jun. 29, 2015 | read full post »

Interview: David and Christi Eaton of "Hope Bridge"
David and Christi Eaton wanted to help families devastated by suicide and those who struggle with thoughts of suicide. And so they wrote "Hope ...

posted 3:02:12pm Jun. 29, 2015 | read full post »

Trailer: The Good Dinosaur
Coming in summer 2016 from Pixar. [iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0QlRSVKwFA0?rel=0&controls=0&showinfo=0" frameborder="0"] ...

posted 8:00:31am Jun. 29, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.