Oct 12, 2009

[Movies] The Happening (2008)

The HappeningThere's a very fine line between being typecast and knowing your strengths as an actor. Sure, we see time and time again how new actors are cast and re-cast in movies very similar to their first major blockbuster and this becomes their inevitable trap. On the flip side, there are those who make a conscious effort to stick to movies of a certain genre or archetype since they know they perform well in this arena.

It gets pretty tricky when an actor tries to play against type. Whether he's doing it because he wants to break out of the pattern of typecasting that one normally falls into or he just wants to explore new areas and expand his range as an actor, the results are not necessarily going to be good. In fact, they end up being very hit or miss and usually we as viewers end up paying the consequences of such explorations. Oh joy.

The Happening is the most recent movie of M. Night Shyamalan and the first one to be rated R in the US. It's a sort of horror / suspense film where people begin to start mysteriously dying due to some supposed neurotoxin spreading across the northeastern portion of the US. Among those in the contaminated area is high school science teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg). Together with his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel), fellow teacher Julian (John Leguizamo) and Julian's daughter Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez), they try to escape the spreading plague while trying to figure out what exactly was going on.

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 27:  Director M. Night Shy...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Now the initial premise was odd enough and you need to add in the fact that M. Night was touting this as a sort of homage to the old horror movies of the past. In fact, he was quoted a few days before the release that "We're making an excellent B movie , that's our goal." That statement felt almost like a last-minute retcon to me somehow given the movie was pretty campy and they needed to make sure everyone knew that.

But it didn't feel like a true homage and somehow ended up handling this angle rather clumsily. It didn't have that feeling of not knowing what was going on or those long stretches of silence where the viewer is left to ponder what was going on for themselves. Instead we had one haphazard moment after another and the whole thing just sort of ambled along as best as it good despite lacking enough legs to stand on or something.

Plus having Mark Wahlberg as a science teacher was just so unrealistic. Some could argue that perhaps he was intentionally hamming up his performance in line with the B movie homage going on but this was well beyond that. I can fully understand why he does so many action movies and why he isn't given long drawn-out speeches. He just has a vocal quality that I found rather annoying - it was pretty whiny and screechy all throughout as if he were still going through puberty.

As much as I respect M. Night's desire to experiment with various movie types and styles, I really wish he'd go back to the kind of quality film making and story writing that he started out with back in the days of The Sixth Sense. His movies made a lot more sense then and his camera angles and shots were just amazing. Now he seems to be getting weirder and weirder and who knows what kind of a movie we're going to end up with next. Oy vei!

The Happening gets 2 nonsensical hot dog references out a possible 5.



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