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The Happening

A movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

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What happened with THE HAPPENING?--1 1/2 Stars

  • Dec 13, 2008
I'm a fan of M. Night Shyamalan. THE SIXTH SENSE, UNBREAKBLE, and SIGNS are not only entertaining films, but the stories in those films tacks some very deep and important issues, such as love, the nature of evil, and faith. Even though THE VILLAGE and LADY IN THE WATER were not as well received by either audiences are critics, I enjoyed both of them (in fact I loved LADY IN THE WATER--it's a modern-day fairy tale told right). Therefore, I was quite excited to see THE HAPPENING. Instead of having some great philosophical discussions with friends and family after seeing the movie (as happened each time before after I saw Shyamalan's films), I left thinking "What happened?" and "That was one of the dumbest movies I've ever seen.

The film begins interesting enough and contains enough shock value to hold one's attention for the first half of the film. It's just another day in Central Park in NYC. A woman sits on a bench chatting with a friend when she hears someone scream. A breeze flows through the park and then everyone stops moving. Moments later the woman's friend removes a hair pick and begins stabbing herself in the neck in a deliberate act of suicide. Minutes later at a downtown construction site in the city, a foreman is trying to contact a worker who won't respond when the missing worker's body plunges from the sky. The event is witnessed by several people, but as they rush to the fallen man's aid other bodies begin falling from the sky as worker after worker walks across platforms and plummet to their deaths.

The story then moves from NYC to a small, rural Pennsylvania high school where a high school science teacher, Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) is giving an engaging lecture to his students early in the morning. At this point in the movie, as Mr. Moore pontificated about science, I was reminded of a sci-fi parody I saw a few years ago, THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA. The hero of that movie was a scientist, too and said some of the same phrases (almost word for word) that Mr. Moore spoke. Of course, THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA was a parody film of all of those cheap sci-fi pictures of the 1950s and 1960s and was illustrating at how absurd it was that just because a person was a scientist they could be a credible hero and save the world from its problems. When a movie that begins so shocking, interesting, and thrilling takes a sudden detour and causes one to remember a hilarious sci-fi parody about ten minutes into the movie, it's not a good sign.

As for the rest of the plot, Moore is pulled away from his class by his principal who informs them they are dismissing school for the rest of the day and is told about what has happened in NYC. Most of the country assumes that what has happened (and continues to happen as the movie progresses) is a biochemical attack begun by terrorists. Moore isn't convinced and as people begin to migrate to smaller towns to escape the "fallout" of whatever weapon was used, it becomes apparent that even small town America isn't safe. What happened in New York starts happening across the entire U.S. Northeast. Moore flees with his wife, Alma (Zooey Deschanel) and friend Julian (John Leguizamo) and Julian's daughter, Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez) as the try to escape the rather large effected area and reach civilization.

I really like Zooey Deschanel. I think she's beautiful and is rather talented given decent material. It was almost painful to watch her in THE HAPPENING. Her lines were terrible, her character had absolutely no personality, and she had zero chemistry with co-star Mark Whalberg. I'm not a huge fan of Whalberg. He got a huge break early in his acting career because of his huge music stardom and some of the roles he has played he delivered a performance more wooden than a Pinocchio statue. Still, Whalberg does have some talented and, like Deschanel, when given decent material, e.g. THE DEPARTED and INVINCIBLE, he excels. THE HAPPENING isn't a movie where he's allowed to display his talents as a performer. Instead he spends most of the time running around with a scared look on his face and saying lines that even a high-school dropout who hates reading can recognize as bad writing. Oh, and did I mention he has no chemistry whatsoever with his co-star who is playing his wife, Zooey Deschanel. Whalberg does a better job of trying to make the best of bad dialogue, but most of the other actors in the movie don't even try. It's a bad script and other than a few scenes scattered throughout the movie, most of the cast doesn't even seem to be trying.

Other than the terrible writing, there's a thing called plot that if very, very weak. Bascially (SPOILERS AHEAD) the Earth's plants have decided to murder us. That's it. The plants are the bad guys. That's right. Plants. Enough said about that.

Shyamalan's films have always had a layered subtext that seems more important to him than even the actual films themselves. His films are full of meaning and are richly rewarding if viewers allow themselves to think about what they are seeing. I'm sure there is some sort of subtext in THE HAPPENING besides the surface story about nature turning against man because of the destruction we've caused through things like man-made global warming. The problem is that it's not really decipherable what that message is. Is the movie really a comment about terror attacks and how paranoid the citizenry becomes in such events? Is it about the fickleness of the masses? Is it about how reliant we've become upon media and technology so much so that we can no longer think for ourselves? Or is it more like the surface story, a cautionary tale in the vein of JURASSIC PARK warning us that no matter how scientifically advanced we might think we are, nature will always find a way to outsmart us? The movie might be trying to make all of these points, but none of it really matters. In the past, the messages made sense because the movies that Shyamalan made were actually enjoyable to watch. Even THE VILLAGE and LADY IN THE WATER are good movies if you watch them with a child-like wonder and accept them for what they are. However, no amount of suspension of disbelief is going to help make THE HAPPENING a good movie. Whatever message or messages Shyamalan was trying to make become lost and completely overshadowed because the vehicle the message is being delivered in (the movie itself) is so terribly bad. The only good points are the shocking opening sequence and a few other well-done scenes scattered throughout the movie. And that's all that's happening with THE HAPPENING.

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More The Happening reviews
review by . December 01, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
** out of ****      In the past, M. Night Shyamalan has dealt with the ominous, the dark, the questionable, the humane, and even the beautiful. He has shocked me and with "Signs", I was most certainly riveted. But then came "The Village", which was a decent movie, but it was a big step down from "Signs". Then came "Lady in the Water", which I just could not find myself enjoying. M. Night Shyamalan tries to patch up his career with his first …
review by . August 08, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Man Cannot Explain Every Phenomena, But He Tries To Explain Through Deductive Reasoning...
Act of God- A direct and sudden event or action of certain unexplainable forces that could not be reasonably foreseen; it compromises all evidence and defies all attempts at explanation by Science.      THE HAPPENING is writer/director M. Night Shyamalan’s latest outing after his somewhat disappointing “Lady in the Water”. This director’s films are lyrical in tone but often has a darkness in their proceedings; Shyamalan‘s films are also thematic …
review by . May 04, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I heard this was M. Night Shyamalan's best film since The Sixth Sense (Collector's Edition Series), so I wanted to see for myself.     I really liked this movie because it was suspenseful and moved along at a fast clip, but it's definitely not in the same league as The Sixth Sense. That was a gripping movie, filled with eerie, frightening happenings and great acting.    The opening scene of The Happening occurs in Central Park on a bustling, normal day. Two …
Quick Tip by . October 19, 2010
I enjoyed it, but this one didn't feel up to the standard of the first ones.
Quick Tip by . August 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
dumb dumb boring and dumb did i mention dumb?? lots of suspence leading up to NOTHING
review by . July 05, 2009
The Happening is Shymalan's first bad movie. But he still has yet to make a complete dud of a film. This one comes a bit close, but not quite. For one, the premise is much too good: Mother Earth strikes back, emitting from all of her greenery a toxin that is fatal for humans. Specifically, it causes them to kill themselves.From there, you can gather that the 90 minute runtime will be filled with confusion and hysteria as everyone tries to escape this strange Green Effect (by the way, that was the …
Quick Tip by . April 29, 2010
posted in MovieSucktastic
Movie Review Haiku: The Happening - Answers the question / "What's Happening?" with a curt / "Nothing worth watching."
review by . August 26, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
If you go into "The Happening" expecting an American style horror/disaster flick, you're bound to be disappointed. What you want from that kind of film are massive explosions, car crashes, tornadoes, zombies or monsters or ghosts, and big budget special effects, all tied together into some kind of coherent narrative with escalating action, leading to a climax in which (usually) the hero saves the world (or at least the local community) and achieves some kind of much needed reconciliation with his/her …
review by . July 08, 2009
M. Night Shayamalan got a huge career boost with The Sixth Sense.  When Unbreakable and Signs came out later, they were met with similar praise from fans.  People found his films to be something different and unique.  Shayamalan made his first mishap with The Village.  The idea of a big twist at the end of his movies didn't get old.  His twists just got weaker.  The Village was a movie that many found absorbing until those last few minutes when we learned of the twist.  …
review by . May 01, 2009
In our opening, people start committing suicide randomly,finding strangely violent cinematic ways to dispatch themselves -¬†and they haven't even seen this film yet. Cut to Marky Mark, a high school teacher in Philly who is making his kids fail their SATs by filling their heads with nonsense about disappearing bees. Are the bees related? What do you think? When the news of this potential bio-terrorist attack hits the school, Marky decides for some reason to get on a train with his not-quite-clear-how-estanged …
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You'd expect the end of the world to be no day in the park, but in M. Night Shyamalan'sThe Happening, a day in the park is where the end begins. One otherwise peaceful summer morning, New Yorkers strolling in Central Park come to a halt in unison, then begin killing themselves by any means at hand. At a high-rise construction site a few blocks over, it's raining bodies as workers step off girders into space. And all the while, the city is so quiet you can hear the gentle breeze in the trees. That breeze carries a neurotoxin, and what or who put it there (terrorists?) is a question raised periodically as the film unfolds. But the question that really matters is how and whether anybody in the Middle Atlantic states is going to stay alive.The Happeningis Shyamalan's best film sinceThe Sixth Sense, partly because he avoids the kind of egregious misjudgment that derailedThe VillageandLady in the Water, but mostly because the whole thing has been structured and imagined to keep faith with the point of view of regular, unheroic folks confronted with a mammoth crisis. Focal characters are a Philadelphia high-school science teacher (Mark Wahlberg, excellent), his wife (Zooey Deschanel) and math-teacher colleague (John Leguizamo), and the latter’s little girl (Ashlyn Sanchez). Instinct says get out of the cities and move west; most of the film takes place in the delicately picturesque Pennsylvania countryside, with menace hovering somewhere in the haze. There are...
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Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: June 13, 2008
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: October 7, 2008
Runtime: 1hr 29min
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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