The Happening Preview – 13 June

Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer (WGA): M. Night Shyamalan (written by)
Release Date:13 June 2008 (USA)

Genre: Action/Adventure, Thriller and Politics/Religion
Tagline:We’ve Sensed It. We’ve Seen The Signs. Now… It’s Happening.
Plot:A paranoid thriller about a family on the run from a natural crisis that presents a large-scale threat to humanity.

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Betty Buckley

A family is on the run from an inexplicable and unstoppable event that threatens not only humankind–but the most basic human instinct of them all: survival.

“The Happening” is a terrible, terrible movie. I mean, it’s bad on an epic scale. It’s so bad that I can’t possibly tell you how bad it is without understating the point or making it sound like I’m picking on the film. But let me stress: this is not pent-up Shyamalan aggression or a desire to see him fail. This is bad in a jaw-dropping “they can’t really be serious, can they?” kind of way. The closest comparison I can draw is to Neil LaBute’s “Wicker Man” and, like that film, the only consolation I can offer potential theater-goers is that you might want to see it just to be in on the ground floor when the film gets its ass handed back to it.

I can also throw out that I’m not certain if the version I saw was the final version. It certainly felt rough but compared pretty dead-on with what I remembered from the script. The score, certainly, was missing and while that can really work wonders in the final form, I can’t imagine it coming close to saving “The Happening”.

The story is relatively simple and I don’t want to venture too far into spoiler territory. Picture “The Birds” without any birds, and that should give you a good idea of what Shyamalan seems to be going for. Suddenly and for seemingly no reason a neuro-toxin is released in the Northeastern United States that causes people to murder themselves in terrible ways. The effect sweeps through different towns and everyone races to escape, unsure of what’s really going on. The lead, Mark Wahlberg, is a schoolteacher who is on the outs with wife Zooey Deschanel. They flee together with a few other strangers and try to figure out what has caused the deadly outbreak.

The most obvious fault in “The Happening” is the acting — in particular Wahlberg’s performance. I’m saying this with no hyperbole, but Wahlberg might very well give the worst performance I’ve ever seen in anything. He’s that bad. His character is a passive aggressive high-school teacher and each line in delivered with nasally whines that sound like some strange parody. As bad as the rest of the movie is, Wahlberg is the part that the internet is going to eat alive. But is it really his fault? Wahlberg’s proven himself with “I (Heart) Huckabees” and his amazing turn in “The Departed”. I can’t help but feel that Shyamalan — intentionally or otherwise — is ultimately to blame for forcing some truly awful line readings.

The rest of the cast is passable but nothing special. Zooey Deschanel is extremely cute but never really does anything that matters. She’s very similar to a lot of female Shyamalan characters: the recent-love-that-didn’t-work-out. John Leguizamo probably does the best job of maneuvering around clunky, awkward dialogue as another schoolteacher and friend to Wahlberg but he’s also barely in the film and only really serves the purpose of, fairly early on, having Wahlberg and Deschanel watch after his little girl for the duration of the film.
I bring the acting up first only because it’s the most damning aspect of “The Happening”, but the pacing is issue number two. The film moves at a ridiculous speed and bits that seemed, on the page, like they’d be perfect for Shyamalan’s slow, long-running shots are rushed through and made laughable. The opening — which consists of a couple different scenes of people hurting themselves — almost flashes by and instead of being genuinely disturbing, they’re overly melodramatic and come off as fake. There’s something scary about someone not realizing they’re hurting themselves — as we do see at one point through a cell-phone video of a man walking casually into a lion cage and being torn apart — and something just plain stupid about forced shock like we get in a long, choreographed steadicam of people one by one shooting themselves, dropping the gun and letting the next person pick it up.

But this all just flashes by. There’s a problem and we cut to a school where the students take unrealistically in stride that the world is pretty much ending. The characters are so far removed from reality that, when news of the disaster hits, it makes you wonder if Shyamalan ever stepped outside his house on 9/11. There’s no panic or disorder and everyone freely accepts their information from the high school itself and goes home. No one’s getting texts or making phone calls or demanding that someone explain what’s happening.
Wahlberg and Deschanel take in Leguizamo’s little girl while he goes off to look for his wife. There’s all kinds of Spielberg “War of the Worlds” on the road bits, but they’re segmented and awkward. They’re on a train for a bit. They’re in a diner for a bit. They meet a soldier for a bit. They come to a farmhouse with a trigger-happy farmer. Nothing really sticks out as interesting or meaningful and all the while Wahlberg makes up crazy, crazy theories about how the neurotoxin works without any real evidence or logic. And, of course, he’s right.

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6 Responses to “The Happening Preview – 13 June”

  1. […] Quid Pro Quo (Magnolia Pictures) Red Roses and Petrol (World Wide Motion Pictures Corporation) The Happening (20th Century Fox) The Incredible Hulk (Universal Pictures, Marvel Studios) To the Limit (First Run […]

  2. […] funofmovie put an intriguing blog post on The Happening Preview – 13 JuneHere’s a quick excerpt“The Happening” is a terrible, terrible movie. I mean, it’s bad on an epic scale. It’s so bad that I can’t possibly tell you how bad it is without understating the point or making it sound like I’m picking on the film. … […]

  3. […] The Happening Preview – 13 JuneThe lead, Mark Wahlberg, is a schoolteacher who is on the outs with wife Zooey Deschanel. They flee together with a few other strangers and try to figure out what has caused the deadly outbreak. The most obvious fault in “The Happening” …Fun of movie! Blog about new movies and actors – https://funofmovie.wordpress.com pay per click advertising […]

  4. […] The Happening Preview – 13 June29 May 2008 by funofmovie The lead, Mark Wahlberg, is a schoolteacher who is on the outs with wife Zooey Deschanel. They flee together with a few other strangers and try to figure out what has caused the deadly outbreak. The most obvious fault in “The Happening” …Fun of movie! Blog about new movies and actors – https://funofmovie.wordpress.com […]

  5. […] to age! Channel: Celebrities Tags:Propeller.com Celebrities Stories – http://www.propeller.com|||The Happening Preview – 13 JuneThe lead, Mark Wahlberg, is a schoolteacher who is on the outs with wife Zooey Deschanel. They flee […]

  6. This stupid stuff about “ITS TERRIBLE” is such BS. The hate continues os much for M.Night that bloggers and critics will do anything for him to make sure no one sees it.

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