Thursday, September 07, 2006

Lady In The Water

[Now Experiencing] [Film]

A small group tonight for Lady In The Water, which did indeed deserve its status as a Bad Movie Thursday.

There's a good movie trapped in that film somewhere, and if you listen closely in the quiet bits you can hear its demented screams coming from whatever narrative dungeon it's been consigned to.

Whereas other Shyamalan films have been subtle and understated (occasionally to the point of tedium), Lady In The Water goes over the top in spelling out the bleeding obvious at every juncture, firmly adhering to the "tell, don't show" school of writing pioneered by such literary masterpieces as Dick & Jane and The Eye of Argon.

In the modern age of cinema, it's actually quite rare to be able to tell when an author is just making it up as he goes along, but in Lady In The Water you can see that unique quality shining brightly through the plot holes. You have to wonder whether M Knight Shyamalan possibly completed the script the night before filming commenced, or just gave the outline to some primary school students and asked them to fill in the details.

The main fault with Lady In The Water is that it doesn't know what sort of film it wants to be.

The chief spine of the plotline follows a fantasy quest, where a mysterious mermaid from another dimension is hunted by demon wolf-thingies and must gather about her a cadre of talented individuals in order to escape back to her homeworld via a magical eagle. There are various rules about how the mermaid and her spooky country work, which we learn through big lumps of jarring and unlikely exposition pretty much every five seconds throughout the movie. The residents of an apartment complex called the Cove luckily apparently see magical mermaids every day, and are able to rally together at a moment's notice to follow a plan divined by a small child from the back of a cereal box to do something vague which somehow saves the day while the wolves are eaten by killer monkeys.

Killer monkeys, you say? Why yes! Not content with merely being a urban fantasy, the movie also delves shallowly into the realm of metaphor. It has something very important to say about civilisation and identity and war and peace and violence and love, and it blurts its message out with a kind of autistic enthusiasm. Luckily most of the metaphor gets eaten by the killer monkeys, so you don't have to worry too much about that side of the film.

If you've seen the trailers, you'll probably also think the movie might be a little scary. And it is, in parts. If you're excited about them, here's a hint: while watching, try not to blink.

The best moments of the movie really come from its most sincere storyline, which is a tale about community. It's a tale about groups of disparate people coming together in a common cause, and sharing with each other, and together becoming more than the sum of their parts. It's a good thing you've seen other movies like that, because you can just draw from those films to fill in all the bits that this one leaves out, like characterisation and emotion and overcoming difficulties and hope triumphing over all, and suchlike. It's really very efficient.

Don't let the Shyamalan name on the posters fool you - this is not a good movie. It barely even makes it into the realm of "kind of average". Trust me - Bryce Dallas Howard doesn't wear any pants the entire movie, and that still doesn't save it.

7 comments:

Jey said...

I saw an ad for the movie after we got home from it.
It was rated PG. Unamused.
It was a lot scarier than a PG rating, maybe it was wasn't? Maybe it's just because I was in a hightened state of emotion and anxiety due to the day's events. But I really thing it should have been rated M.
What do others think?

Reel Fanatic said...

If there is a good movie in there somewhere, M Night certainly buried it in a mountain of ego .. this was easily the worst movie I've seen this summer, edging out Poseidon from the top spot

GregT said...

Jey - I can see how technically it was PG - there was no blood, no swearing, no adult themes. But it didn't feel like a movie made for children.

Reel Fanatic - from an objective standpoint, Silent Hill was clearly a worse film. And I have a definite suspicion that DOA (next week's Bad Movie Thursday) will also top it for awfulneses.

Jey said...

"I can see how technically it was PG - there was no blood, no swearing, no adult themes."
You are the expert when it comes to the OFLC - may be the wrong acronym.

"But it didn't feel like a movie made for children."
I agree there.

I'd now like to take the opportunity to respond to some of your other comments.

"where a mysterious mermaid from another dimension"
I was of the understanding she was from another world, namely a world in the sea.

"The residents of an apartment complex called the Cove"
It was The Cove.

"a plan divined by a small child from the back of a cereal box"
Bit of a spoiler don't you think? Although one could argue it was blaringly obvious that it was meant to be the child.


"it blurts its message out with a kind of autistic enthusiasm"
I find this use of language offensive, however the because the primary word I would use to describe the move would be 'schitzophrenic' , I will forgive your un-pcness on this occasion.

"If you've seen the trailers, you'll probably also think the movie might be a little scary. And it is, in parts. If you're excited about them, here's a hint: while watching, try not to blink."
Or you could just make sure you're in a really anxious and jumpy mood...that always makes things a bit scarier for me.

"Bryce Dallas Howard doesn't wear any pants the entire movie"
For crying out loud, give the lady some pants!

Grant said...

This is the film where Shyamalan gave Disney the script, their production head sensibly rejected it, and he flew off the handle, left the studio that had produced all four of his earlier hit films (and may have produced his first one, can't remember) and set up shop at Warner Bros.

Who must be feeling pretty foolish now - or perhaps hopeful that now they bankrolled this film they'll get first dibs on the next good one.

GregT said...

Jess - I'm really not worried about spoilers for Lady In The Water. The film clearly isn't - everything that might have made the film suspenseful or interesting gets spoiled in the opening narration anyhow. I'm using "autistic" in the strictly descriptive sense, to say that the film communicates haltingly and with no clear grasp of nuance or social interaction. And I'd hope that after reading my review, people WOULD be in an anxious mood going in to see the movie.

Grant - He'll pop out another good one eventually. I still think The Village was rather decent. Honestly, he'd probably benefit from being EITHER the writer or the director, but not both. And certainly not producer on top.

Jey said...

Saw The Villiage the other night. It was also of quite a mixed/confused genre.
Again the spookiness was of a satisfactory level, not totally scared out of my wits but a little more than what I was expecting.
I expected the second 'twist' so was not let down by it, unlike my partner who, having seen to movie before, said 'this is another part where it takes a turn for the worse'.
As I wasn't expecting much, I was overall quite pleased. It was also good to see Ms Dallas-Howard with her legs covered.