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:: The Happening

M. Night Shyamalan’s recent form slump continues with his new film ‘The Happening’ which promises so much but fails to deliver on a number of levels.

‘The Happening’ tells the story of Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg), a science teacher whose marriage to his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel) is in all kinds of trouble. Their world is further turned upside down when New York City is struck by an event which sees humans lose their basic skills and minutes later kill themselves. As the epidemic spreads further across America Elliot and Alma flee with close friend, Julian (John Leguizamo) and his daughter, Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez). But the big question is how can you outrun something when you don’t exactly know what you are running from. Are these events being triggered by the supernatural, terrorists or is a natural phenomenon?

This is a great premise for a film but unfortunately the film just falls in one great big heap. To be brutally honest Shyamalan has produced a shocking script. There are many holes in the major storyline while a lot of the characters (and their actions) in ‘The Happening’ are just plain unbelievable. Firstly, Shyamalan has a created a film full of character-clichés. There are the simple country folk, an unintelligent army cadet, the creepy old lady and a teenager who seems normal until something basic brings out a violent side. They are characters we have seen thousands of times before and really do nothing for the storyline. You could be forgiven for thinking this script was the work of a first year writing student; and their first draft at that!

Even the major characters have serious flaws. Some of the lines given to Alma are completely ridiculous (especially when in shock) while the character of Julian is simply left as the formulaic best friend, he is very one-dimensional; a shame considering John Leguizamo tries to something great with the tripe he has been handed.

To its credit the storyline of ‘The Happening’ keeps you interested. You want to what is happening; what has caused it, but unfortunately you are never given enough of insight into the main characters to even care whether they live or die. You also get an eerie feeling that Shyamalan really didn’t go far enough with this film, he held back on the gorier aspects of the film so much so that ‘The Happening’ simply becomes a film that closely resembles daytime TV. It simply shielded its audience way too much. And while some scenes will stay with the audience for a while, there simply aren’t enough of these scenes to impress most cinema-goers.

The acting also did very little to save this film. Mark Wahlberg’s talent was wasted in his role; and it seemed like he knew that as he put in one very lazy performance indeed. As mentioned before John Leguizamo was the only shining light in a film that should have been pronounced dead on arrival at the cinema.

Shyamalan has tried to capture his old brilliance but it is nowhere to be seen in ‘The Happening’; a film that you feel would have been better off in the hands off a talented director such as Danny Boyle.