Finally, Shyamalan bounces back (Rated PG-R)

Rated Five Stars

    OK, M. Night Shyamalan, we used to have a good relationship. I trusted you. I paid good money to see The Village, and even though that sucked, I invested my time in Lady in the Water. I was this close to breaking up with you completely, but I decided to give you one more chance. I admit, after so many bad experiences with you, I was worried. Before The Happening (91 minutes), I crossed my fingers, held my hands out to the big screen, and pleaded with the world itself for your film not to disappoint me and break my heart for the last time. Despite the people sitting in front of us making fun of everything that made your movie great, I am happy to say that this didn’t suck. Good job. You may have gotten drunk with star power for a few years, but you seem to have gotten over it.
    The film opens in New York. People are acting funny, although animals seem unaffected. I am instantly struck with intense dread that at some point, a sweet little kitty or puppy is going to be mauled and devoured. As shown in previews, people begin dying. We switch to high school science teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) discussing how useless science is for explaining the world around us. Eventually, Elliot and a large, blue-eyed china doll named Alma (Zooey Deschanel) head for a train, along with Elliot’s friend Julian (John Leguizamo) and daughter Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez). I am now concerned that at some point Jess will be kidnapped or poisoned.  {mosimage}
    Throughout the movie, Elliot’s group composition changes as various ideas about the causes of the increasing human mortality are advanced. Eventually, Elliot and his considerably reduced number of followers arrive at the home of everyone’s favorite gramma, Betty Buckley, who plays Mrs. Jones. Mrs. Crazy represents the kind of loony common to rural Pennsylvania (I grew up there and I would know). Of course, if Shyamalan wanted to really capture the essence of the Pennsylvanian hermit he would have given her a shotgun and a jar of moonshine. While she serves our survivors a nice homemade meal, the viewers are offered a series of newscasts that reveal the parameters of the event that they are attempting to escape. Unfortunately, Mrs. Crazy doesn’t have a TV or radio, nor does she have any interest in hearing about the event currently taking place in the outside world.
    If this were another kind of movie, more plot details might be welcome. This, however, is a Shyamalan movie. Any more plot description is only going to ruin it. Suffice to say that this is indeed the great comeback we have been waiting for. While it is true that the dialogue was a little bit ripe, and buying Mark Wahlberg as some kind of science genius who figures out what is going on requires a little bit more suspension of disbelief than I am prepared to offer, I don’t care. The plot doesn’t disappoint, the pace is just right, and the shocks are placed for maximum effect. As always, the cinematography is moody, the use of color is carefully planned, and the ending comes way too soon for a spellbound audience. Finally, If I might be allowed one moment of self-congratulation, I totally spotted Brian O’Halloran (Dante from Clerks) based only on his puffy-faced profile seen on screen for approximately 10 seconds.

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