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"Lady in the Water"

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
Written by M. Night Shyamalan.
Starring Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeffrey Wright and M. Night Shyamalan.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  7/23/06


I left work on Friday afternoon at around 5:15 and walked over to the multiplex behind my office building in Gaithersburg...and, when I got there, I had a host of choices that were going to start around 5:30:

  • "Little Man"

  • "You, Me and Dupree"

  • "Lady in the Water"

  • "My Super Ex-Girlfriend"

  • "Clerks 2"

I still want to see "Little Man" because of its Worst Flick of the Year potential, but after considering all of my choices, I decided to go see "Lady in the Water."  After careful consideration, I have to admit--worst fucking move I could have made given my circumstances.

"Lady in the Water" is awful, although not God-awful, just plain bad.  There are many reasons for this, but I have narrowed it down to three main reasons.

1.  M. Night Shyamalan wrote an absolutely awful script ridden with too-cute clichés and nods to his own apparent genius.  Let's make sure we are clear on something, and it becomes more obvious with each passing film:  With "The Sixth Sense", Shyamalan just got plain lucky.  By many accounts, the majority of his other films--save for "Signs", a film that has held well over time and features maybe the best acting work in any of his films--are nothing more than passable and his scripts are nothing more than hokey.  My friend Ross actually claimed this past weekend that "Unbreakable" is considered by many of his friends to be their favorite Shyamalan film, shocking since I have never heard that before.  But I know in asking many of you after seeing the other flicks this guy has made, the masses did not like "The Village", they didn't like "Unbreakable", they probably didn't even notice "Wide Awake" (and if they did, they didn't like it, either).  The problem here, as with both "The Village" and "Unbreakable", is that "Lady in the Water" does have a cool idea at its core, but in playing out the whole story, the writing here is strangely weak, the character development non-existent, and a couple of characters seem planted only to flesh out popular movie clichés for Shyamalan's own amusement.  I was gagging by the third act.

2.  Shyamalan really thinks it is best to put himself in his films, and not just for a cameo!!  In "Lady in the Water", he has a half-dozen scenes as Vick Ran, a struggling writer that lives in the shitty apartment building where the film takes place.  He is not complete dogshit in his role, but he is distracting, because by now, everyone knows who he is, and his line delivery is wooden.  With a budget this big, was there not another Indian guy available to play the struggling writer?

3.  This film, at its core, is about a VERY old water nymph that lives beneath a grate, in a cave, at the bottom of a fucking public pool.  And some wolf that hides in the grass but every so often tries to eat the fucking nymph.  And three monkeys that lives in trees over the pool that are supposed to be able to protect the nymph from the wolf...whenever there's an eagle circling the sky over the fucking pool.  No WONDER people saw the trailer for "Lady in the Water" and were like "There's no fucking way I'm going to see that horseshit."

People in my audience were howling at how awful some parts of this film were; two rows behind, one guy said flat-out how much he was hating the film.  I know he was two rows back, because one row behind me, two girls screamed every time the fucking apartment sprinkler system came on, whether the wolf was hangin' around or not.  Wow, this was pretty bad, and it drove my audience to near-insanity.  It doesn't help that big stars are beginning to stay away from Shyamalan's productions; how do you go from getting Bruce Willis, Sam Jackson and Mel Gibson to be in your films to getting Bryce Dallas Howard as your lead performer?  (Better question--who the fuck IS Bryce Dallas Howard???)  Could you try any harder to NOT sell your films?

Seriously, would love to know what you think of this one if you have already dropped cash on it.  If you haven't, I'm giving you fair warning...

Rating:  Hard Vice


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09