Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Happening Is A Stupid Name For A Stupid Movie

I'll admit that I haven't seen an M. Night Shyamalan movie since The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, long before anyone really knew or cared who M. Night Shyamalan was or how to pronounce his name. After sampling his latest creation, I'm starting to think that maybe he's losing his touch. The Happening was the stupidest movie I've ever seen that wasn't intended to be stupid.

To call The Happening boring would be doing a grave disservice to One Hour Photo. To call The Happening pointless would be doing a grave disservice to Lost In Translation. There's not even a plot twist. It's just rampant environmentalist propoganda so profoundly absurd one has to wonder if it was actually intended as an insult to environmentalism.

I know that revealing key plot points to M. Night Shyamalan movies is a heinous taboo punishable by social ostracism, but I'm going to do it anyway because Shyamalan himself ruins the surprise twist ending within the first half hour of the movie leaving us to wander in apathetic boredom until it ends. It's kind of like when you watched Full Metal Jacket past the climactic suicide scene for the first time and realized there's another full hour of plot resolution to sit through, and then you never watch that half of the movie again. If you want to know what is making people stab themselves in the neck and walk off skyscrapers, it's trees. Trees are responsible for this "happening."

This movie fails on so many levels. Not only does it fail to entertain, but it also fails to convey the philosophical implications that I'm assuming Shyamalan was trying to communicate. It does convey philosophical implications when one starts dissecting the undertones of the movie's messages, but none of them make me care about the environment. In fact, they do the opposite — they make me care that much less about the environment because the only thing stupider than the environment is apparently the celebrities trying to educate us about it.

The movie tells us that plants are sentient and they communicate with each other and they are trying to kill us because they are scared of us. Okay, plants don't think. They don't have brains. They are not sentient. They don't communicate with each other, and they are not going to fight back against us. They do not care about the threat human beings impose on them; human beings care about the threat they impose upon plants because it's called guilt, and this movie thrives on it like a hippie on pot. If these sentient plants weren't all complete idiots, they'd realize that there are far greater threats to their existence than people, and they'd do something to fight back against nature. Seriously, right now one half of the country is on fire and the other half is under water. Maybe the plants should spend less time worrying about people and more time telling Mother Nature to get her shit straight.

If plants are sentient, thinking, and feeling organisms now, I can't help but wonder what the coalition of shortsighted nature lovers behind this film really expect us to eat. We can't eat animals because they live and think and feel, and now they're telling us that plants also live and think and feel. If we decided to start eating rocks, it would probably only be another twenty years before we had a movie about self-aware rocks attacking people in the interest of self-preservation. If we decided to start eating plastic, it probably wouldn't be much longer before a growing movement insisted that plastic comes from nature and can feel pain. While M. Night Shyamalan just ripped everything that has to do with plant life from the vegetarian diet, I think I'll stick with my eating meat and not giving a shit about what it came from so long as it wasn't anybody I know personally.

Probably the most startling of Shyamalan's misguided revelations in this movie is his assertion that all human beings are inherently suicidal. In the movie, the trees combat humanity by releasing a toxin into the air that shuts down the chemical transmitters to the section of the brain that governs our self-preservation instincts. I think there's a huge gap between not caring about death and actively seeking it out, but apparently in Shyamalan's mind the default setting for every single human being is to crave the undoing of their miserable existence, and the only thing stopping us is our survival instinct.

If anything, this mental obstruction would do nothing more than make people more prone to take unnecessary risks without concern for the consequences, but people who normally don't take great risks and otherwise enjoy life would be safe from its effects. However, instead of suddenly jumping off a building for the thrill of it or driving like a maniac because they just stop caring, as soon as they are affected in this movie, perfectly normal and well-adjusted people are prone to pick up a handgun and shoot themselves in the head for no apparent reason or turn on a riding lawnmower, lay down, and wait for it to roll over them. The sheer thoughtlessness and senselessness that went into the death scenes made them absolutely as pointless as they were graphic, almost as if the only reason they were included was the ability to boast Shyamalan's first R-rated movie.

This movie's one saving grace — the only good thing about the movie — was that it gave me a chance to stare at Zooey Deschanel's face for an hour and a half, and that in itself is a good reason to see any movie. In fact, I'm strongly considering locking her into a slot on the list of actresses I find attractive, which would bring the list to a grand total of two. Of all the portrayals in the movie, hers was the most convincing. The minute visual nuance of her character's particular neurosis was expressed brilliantly through facial movements and body language. Mark Wahlberg's performance, however, ranked somewhere between the "aw shucks" nice guy portrayals of the Fifties and completely robotic. Plus, is it just me, or is Mark Wahlberg starting to look like a cross between William H. Macy and a serial rapist?

Aside from Zooey Deschanel having big, blue eyes and knowing how to use them, the movie had very few entertaining moments, one of which consisted of someone in the theater farting louder than the movie. If Deschanel didn't know how to act, the movie would be a complete waste of effort because perhaps the most important level on which this movie failed was in getting her naked. To say Shyamalan phoned this movie in would be giving him the benefit of the doubt. It's more like he texted it in. The messages he conveyed in the movie were not the messages I think he intended, and the messages I think he inteded were stupid anyway.

The only way to make this movie anywhere near worthwhile would be to gather a large group of your friends and upon leaving the theater, get them all to stand perfectly still and listlessly repeat remarks like, "The carrots are landing" or "Our epithet is ubiquitous," just to see if you can unnerve any of the people getting out of the movie.


Blogger MrsMelvin said...

Wow, now I'm really disappointed. You knocked it down from theatre to "maybe rental."

5:11 PM  

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