By Jamie Hancock
Let me just come out and tell you the best moment in this film. That way I will save you the trouble of seeing “The Happening” in the theater or on DVD. Picture a middle-aged man in a turquoise shirt walking into a glass enclosure surrounded by three lions. He walks up to one of the lions and pets her. As the lion lunges for his shoulder, the camera pans up to the ceiling. When the focus returns to the man, one of his arms has gone missing and another lion proceeds to rip off his other arm, accompanied by obligatory blood spurts. This scene is not really that disturbing because it’s obviously computer-generated. But the animal-aided amputation is unusual because it’s presented to the audience on the screen of an iPhone. The scene is also a nice diversion from the main story, which isn’t going anywhere. At this point, I wasn’t invested in the central characters (nor would I care about them later). My main question was: Did the filmmaker come up with more creative ways for people to commit suicide? The answer is: No.
Back in 2002, critics heralded M. Night Shyamalan as the “next Steven Spielberg.” In addition to garnering impressive box office sales, his first two big studio movies (“The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable”) had compelling storylines that ended with remarkable twists. Although not quite on the same level, “Signs” was highly entertaining. Since then, Shyamalan has produced a string of disappointments – absent of incredible twists and captivating dialogue, and chockfull of bland characters and bad acting performances.
Fortunately, I think I’ve hit upon what has been missing from his last three films, including “The Happening.” So now you will know exactly what to look for, and whether or not his future films are worth the $9 or $10. Sure, his movies are more predictable and less suspenseful than before. And yes, Shyamalan seems more determined on creating eerie landscapes than cultivating plotlines. Okay, and I have to agree that the director has restricted character development in his past efforts. But, besides those three reasons, the missing element has been: cute lovable kid characters! Where would Shyamalan be without the quirky and pensive Haley Joel Osment? Or the nerdy comic relief of Rory Culkin? Or the alarmingly adorable Spencer Treat Clark? Beyond featuring these talented performers, Shyamalan created a touching father-son dynamic in his earlier films. This trend tells me that it’s time for the Oscar-nominated director to switch genres. Perhaps M. Night needs to get out of the mystery/thriller business and try his hand at feel-good family dramas.
I guess I should tell you something more about the plot of “The Happening.” Listen, it’s not worth your time. You’ll just get upset with me.
...So basically the plants hate us and they make us want to kill ourselves. A bumbling idiot science teacher (Mark Wahlberg) and his ditzy girlfriend (Zooey Deschanel) somehow evade deadly airborne toxins by going to rural Pennsylvania. I told you it was ridiculous!