Lady in the Water

Bomb Rating: 

After "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable," which were a long time ago at this point, I liken writer/director and self-proclaimed auteur M. Night Shyamalan to a dog that comes by and takes a big dump on my lawn every year or so. At some point, I walk out to the dump site and stare at a big pile of crap.

"Lady in the Water" begins with a prologue that defines the mythic nature of the film's story. To make a long story short, the water people and mankind used to be close but got separated over time because man took to land and got greedy and mean. After years of separation, a few of the water people were chosen to return to the land and help man.

This apparently explains why one of these water people (called Narfs) pops out of an apartment pool and winds up in the home of the building maintenance man, Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti). The Narf's name is Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), and she's an extremely uninteresting version of Daryl Hannah's character from "Splash." For one thing, she seems to know that the first thing she's supposed to do when she gets out of the pool is put on a shirt. It's good to know that sea nymphs have developed some modesty over the last few decades.

Story is part of an elaborate tale that ends up consuming Cleveland and many of the other residents of the building. I won't go into it other than to write that it involves wolf creatures, monkey creatures, and an eagle that will carry Story off into the night.

It's well known that Shyamalan's films have been prone to increasing critical scorn over the years. For whatever reason, Shyamalan practically invites a critical scouring here. First, he casts himself in a large role as Vick Ran, a writer Story predicts will change the world. He casts Bob Balaban as Harry Farber, a pompous film critic who gets mauled to death. Finally, he gives Cleveland a stutter, which you can find in the Writer's Guild Stereotype Dictionary under "loser."

Ironically, I'm quite in favor of pompous film critic maulings. Unfortunately, it's quite telling when a film director goes out of his way to portray one in a film. Shyamalan is the great writer who knows everything. The film critic is the pathetic loser who knows nothing. It's like an adult version of "Nyah! Nyah!" that would seem more appropriate on a school playground. If it's any help, Night, I'm sorry if I ever hurt your feelings.

If only the lady in the water just could have stayed there.

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