Many people have asked me why I don't do more reviews on the site. The answer is pretty simple...
When I first started here at AICN, Harry strongly encouraged me to advance opinions which did not fall into place with the AICN norm. "The site needs a villain" he suggested.
As it happens, and quite inconveniently, I've agreed with a vast majority of the reviews AICN staff (and regular contributors) have published since my first day. As such, I didn't see much point in putting readers through another commentary that would (in essence) amount to a variation on the same ol' thing.
However, LADY IN THE WATER may well be the first film for which I can implement Harry's marching orders. While I appreciate the physical craftsmanship of his films, I think M. Night Shyamalan is a pompous, sloppy, overbearing storyteller. He has many great core ideas that he rarely seems to understand -- or fully realize. This is not what Harry feels about M. Night. This is not how most people around here seem to feel about M. Night. So, my opinion on LADY may well deviate radically from the rest of my fine cohorts. This could be a lot of fun, and will hopefully make for some amusing cross-fire in our reviews. We'll see what happens when I catch the movie early next week.
Until then, and to kick off the merriment, I give you Sir Lancelot's review of the film. At first his write-up felt a tad trollish to me: it's filled with a bit more contempt than objectivity. But, upon further consideration, I think we may simply dealing with someone who is profoundly (and genuinely) irritated by what he saw.
Here's Sir Lancelot...
BEWARE MODERATE SPOILERS AHEAD!!
I wanted to send your crew early word on M Night Shyamalan's Lady In The Water.
I went to a screening somewhere in the US last week and was intrigued to find out for myself how 'Lady' would turn out.
On the whole I've never been a big Night fan, even though I thought The Sixth Sense packed a punch and was pretty original.
For me, Night started to go downhill with Unbreakable, which was a missed opportunity to make a cool superhero origins story. He showed his penchant for plot holes with Signs, because you'd think the supposedly highly intelligent aliens would have done their research and realized they were susceptible to rain. That's just basic Planetary Invasion 101 stuff. The Village? Plain stupid. What was Adrian Brody thinking?
So I was curious about this one, willing to give Night one final chance, and my interest was piqued by his much-publicized rift with Disney and the upcoming book The Man Who Heard Voices, in which Night tells Sports Illustrated writer Michael Bamberger about the whole evolution of 'Lady', including the way Disney walked after four hit Night movies and Warner Bros came aboard.
You know what? Disney top brass were right to walk away after reading Night's sixth draft. However it has to be pointed out that they created the beast that is M Night Shyamalan, and Warner Bros will be left to pick up the pieces, because I'll be surprised it this one passes $100m. It is, in two words, unadulterated shite.
The credits open with faux children's animation explaining how in days gone by land-dwelling humans were friends with sea people. Then we moved further inland and the sea peeps floated away, but every now and again they send a messenger to try to reestablish contact and save us from ourselves, teach us to swim better, whatever.
The emissary in this case is Bryce Dallas Howard, looking terminally washed up and pasty, presumably because she knows 'Lady' will not do her career any favors. Long story short she surfaces in the swimming pool of an East Coast apartment complex and gets pally with the building's stammering super, played by Paul Giamatti, who looks equally bemused throughout the story.
A big bad wolf is prowling the grounds, and as long as he's there Howard can't get back in the pool to swim home. It's up to Giamatti to unravel an ancient Asian myth and enlist the help of the apartment residents to get the gal back in the water safely. Yadda yadda yadda.
Lady In The Water is a diarrhoea splat of storytelling so haphazard, ideas so undernourished, dialogue so banal, and characterization so criminally lifeless that if you'll be able to lift yourself out of your torpor you will be truly amazed.
You will be truly amazed because here is a young filmmaker who has, in one fell swoop, transformed himself from a flawed and fortuitous studio darling into an irritating film school geek with no right to advancement. I can only assume the Warner Bros suits were so stunned by the celluloid catastrophe that developed in front of their eyes day by day that they forgot that it was their job to rein in this monstrous piece of self-indulgent crap.
Howard's character has a duty to contact a human and pass along a Highly Significant Message, and in one of the most nauseating passages in this sea of puerile puke, she tells a writer that his unpublished book will influence the future President of America and shape a New World Order.
Guess who plays the writer? Night?!! It's by far the biggest role he's given himself, virtually the second male lead, and a clear indication of the delusions of grandeur that fester inside his creatively barren desert of a brain. I think I actually heard someone retch during one of his scenes. He tries to direct several comedy scenes too, and the results are indeed hilarious.
Without suspense, intelligence or cohesive narrative, there is nothing to lift this prison sentence of a movie above the level of mediocre film school thesis. You owe it to yourself to avoid this, and may this be the last we ever hear of M Night Shyamalan.