Wednesday, March 04, 2009

THE HAPPENING - decent concept hamstrung by mis-casting

Evidently, THE HAPPENING is a piss-poor film, but it is not as risible as many reviewers have accused it of being. Admittedly, I was in a minority of near-one in liking M Night Shyamalan's last film, THE LADY IN THE WATER, so maybe my ability to critique his work has been tarnished.But, for all that, it seems to me that what irks critics is that M Night Shyamalan does the same thing over and over: he makes these portentious thrillers in which mankind is imperiled by some spooky external force. I'm sure that the fact that he cast himself as the saviour of the world in his last movie didn't endear him to his peers either.

The thing about THE HAPPENING is that the central conceit is a good one. It's a disaster movie that's perfectly in tune with the INCONVENIENT TRUTH generation, and seems strangely plausible. I even like the fact that Shyamalan avoids the classic disaster movie set pieces - you know, the scenes that were done so well in KNOWING. When disaster comes, people flee the city, but instead of cars jamming up the exits from New York, people are walking through the countryside outside of Philadelphia. Their reactions all seem plausible and all the more frightening for that.

The problem with THE HAPPENING, other than its pointless title, is that it's mis-cast in its lead roles. To put it bluntly, Mark Wahlberg and John Leguziamo just don't look convincing as school teachers. And once you twig to that, it's all over.

THE HAPPENING opened in summer 2008 and is available on DVD and on iTunes.

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