Monday, July 24, 2006

I've got your fairy tale right here.

So the Favorite Scientologist and I braved our respective hangovers to see Lady in the Water (aka The Moist Tart) yesterday. And as it is my duty, I give you my review/opinion. Remember: Mama wuvs spoilers (not that are many to give away this time), so if you don't, you best be moving on.

Cleveland Heep is a sad-sack of a man who works as an apartment manager in a Philadelphia building. Immediately we are introduced to the building's wacky assortment of residents: the bodybuilder who only works out on side of his body, the gaggle of stoners, the inexplicably tall mouthy Korean girl, etc. Shyamalan insists on reinforcing just how kooky these people are just so we know that they may or may not be central to the story as it unfolds. Anyway, Heep finds himself embroiled in a real-life fairy tale when a young lady called Story saves him from drowning in the pool. Apparently this young lady, a sort of sea-nymph known as a "narf," is here to trigger an awakening for the benefit of mankind. In order to do that, she must find a writer (i.e., The Vessel) whose words will enable this, but she must also survive being menaced by a wolf-like creature known as a "scrunt." And if that weren't enough to make things already fairly convoluted, Story's story--which we get to hear translated only via the Korean girl's mother, something that became tedious really quickly--also needs to find: The Guild, The Symbolist, The Healer, The Protector. Are you tired yet? I am. Oh wait, did I mention the giant eagle? I didn't? Or how about the lawkeepers of Story's world, tree-monkey-things called Tartutics? Do you see how this movie is unnecessarily complicated?

Honestly, the film was better than I expected it to be, but it still felt so very contrived. Shyamalan tries to tell us a bedtime story but only ends up keeping us awake. There are too many threads in this one, so when he takes on the Herculean task of trying to make the actual fairy-tale and the roles the residents play in it feel magical, his sleight-of-hand doesn't succeed. There are genuine moments in this film, true: humor, pathos, and terror (there far too few of these, if you ask me). But on the whole, I feel he didn't accomplish what he set out to do. He made what should have been a simple too complex; he also seems to believe his own hype. (And I hadn't mentioned that Shyamalan had cast himself as The Vessel, the one whose book will remake the world. Such egotism!) I liked the movie but I recommend it with reservations. It isn't as magical as it should have been and that always disappoints.

On a lighter note, my new favorite show is Eureka on the Sci Fi Channel. It's funny, inventive, and clever. In other words, it is doomed.

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