Reel Shorts | The Happening

12 06 2008

One of the biggest enigmas in Hollywood is writer/producer/director M. Night Shyamalan. For close to ten years, Night has specialized in stories that create moral dilemmas while scaring the fear of God into his audience. While following his past blueprint, Night’s execution of the story ultimately is his undoing.

Since Night burst on the scene with his instant classic, “The Sixth Sense,” he has teased audiences with his brilliance while failing to make another film that rises to such lofty heights. In “The Happening,” entire cities are transformed into wastelands when a mysterious mighty wind sweeps through cities and small towns. Once the deadly breeze washes over you, its a wrap for you – and soon.

Schoolteacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) is pulled from his class and informed with the rest of the faculty that a potential airborne terrorist attack is crippling New York City. Apparently, there are scores of paralyzed people in Central Park while people are literally falling from the sky downtown. As panic envelopes the Gotham City, Moore, his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel), his best friend Julian (John Leguizamo) and his daughter, Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez) board a train for Philadelphia.

But in a Night film there’s nowhere to run as the pattern is repeated in Philadelphia and other cities throughout the Northeast. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, the train comes to a halt when the conductor loses communication with the outside world. Forced to go it alone, the group disbands and soon its every man/woman for themselves.

The remainder of the film is about the shock and awe of the consistent discoveries of multitudes of the dead in many various forms. Moore must shepherd his family to safety while trying to solve the mystery of just what is causing so much death and mayhem. Which is part of the problem that with a script that introduces a creative concept but much like a idling car sitting in a driveway, the film never builds on its early promise leaving the audience stuck in neutral.

With global warming and the environment very much in the news, “The Happening” is Night’s warning not only about the harm we cause the planet, but what happens to us when the planet fights back. The problem is the film ambiguous message that clearly points the finger at us but never clearly tells the audience exactly why they should fear the winds of change.

Much like former wunderkind Orson Welles, Night’s first film electrified audiences and he has been chasing that elusive goal creating some films that show sparks of his past glory (“Signs” and “The Village”) while the majority of his work comes across as “Twilight Zone”-lite.

Littered with quirky characters who extol their love of hot dogs and a weak subplot about a lack of trust and infidelity between his two leads, the film never settles into a consistent flow. Making his first R-rated film, Night piles on the gore factor with several scenes that elicit shock value but also drive home the point that there is death in that summer breeze.

Ultimately, Night’s film is a hodgepodge of a few moments that work and many more that leave you scratching your head. Unfortunately for Night while the title promises an event the end result is that there not much “Happening” that will send filmgoers home satisfied.

Grade: D+




One response

24 06 2008
mighty k c

[…] moral dilemmas while scaring the fear of God into his audience. While following his past blueprint Squirrels – Mighty Kc / The Hype MachineFor Squirrels – mighty Kc blogged at music is art / The […]

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