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The Happening
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Reviewed on 2008-06-18
Received[1.5]  out of 4 stars
GenreAction / Adventure / Documentary / Drama / Mystery
'The Happening' a waste of time

Vagabond filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan is now aligned with a third studio for his sixth film. His movies can be classified as weird, odd and different. This one is no exception.

The opening credits are displayed along with a blue sky and white puffy clouds. Something ominous is about to occur when things turn dark and sinister.

The movie takes place in the present over the course of 25 hours. New York City’s Central Park provides the attention-grabbing beginning. The wind starts blowing and people freeze up like statues. A woman sitting on a bench stops reading and suddenly commits suicide.

The scene shifts to a downtown construction site where workers jump off a building. The built-in survival instinct does an about-face.

We are then introduced to the main players in this doomsday nightmare scenario. Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) is a Philadelphia high school science teacher. He is in the midst of a marital crisis with his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel).

When school is dismissed early, the disgruntled couple along with Elliot’s best friend and colleague Julian (John Leguizamo) and his 8-year-old daughter, Jess, board a train headed for the Pennsylvania countryside.

The train stops in the middle of nowhere. Julian takes off in search of his wife leaving Jess with Elliot and Alma. They hitch a ride with a strange-looking fellow who owns a local nursery. He provides comic relief when he talks to plants and discusses his fondness for hot dogs dripping with mustard.

The movie defies logic as a deadly, mysterious phenomenon strikes the entire Northeast while this heroic trio finds a “safety zone.”

There are many gruesome scenes of people committing suicide. The musical score alternates between funeral dirges and creepy instrumental tunes in an effort to heighten the suspense. The bulk of the movie takes place outdoors in uncultivated farmland.

The atrocious dialogue makes the acting look stilted. Phrases with the title word (“happening”) are repeated ad nauseum. Wahlberg and Deschanel have no chemistry. They act like deer caught in the headlights with no variety in their expressions.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that a 91-minute running time should be quick and painless. This ludicrous movie is a colossal waste of time.

This appears to be strike three for Shyamalan as far as screenplays go, after the negative backlash from “The Village” and “Lady in the Water.”

His tank is now on empty having exhausted any residual goodwill from his meteoric rise to success generated by “The Sixth Sense.”

Although not appearing in the movie, he is credited as Joey, the mysterious caller to Alma’s cell phone.

Rather than being held hostage by forces of nature beyond our comprehension, a better investment of leisure time can be found in the horror novels written by Stephen King.

Review By:
Keith Cohen, The Movie Guy

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