Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Happening (2008), or Cereal Would Have Been Better

Title: The Happening
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Studio: 20th Century Fox

I've often said that "I'd watch Marky Mark eat cereal" to make it abundantly clear that I'd watch the man do anything just so's I could watch him. Well, M. Night kindly put that to the test with The Happening. Watching Mr. Wahlberg eat cereal definitely would have been better. Infinitely better. Indescribably better. I have seen some bad movies in my time but this has got to be the worst. If I run my Bottom 5 through my head I can almost always find some redeeming quality - some small bit of movie making that wasn't a failure - but The Happening actually fails on every level of movie making. Holy damn it was bad!

A Summary: Plants start killing people. Science teachers know all and are, without dispute (or, as I prefer, "beyond contestation"), the most qualified persons to lead any and all groups to safety.

Now, it must be said, that I have a great admiration for science teachers. One of my oldest and dearest friends is a science teacher, my science teachers (even the one that gave me detention) were one and all pretty darn good and interested in getting us students thinking about the world scientifically. However, the notion that any one of them would be better equipped for navigating a world with killer plants than anyone but the world's foremost plant scientists/toxicologists/biochemists is as nonsensical as, well, The Happening. But, whatever, Marky Mark was the most good-looking person in the film so naturally he is the most reasonable person to start listening to.

I'm not sure what the general direction was for the actors (probably something like, "Could you please channel your inner rock for an appropriate level of emotional expression?") but I have to assume that M. Night's comments to Zooey Deschanel went something like this:

"Cut, cut, cut! For shit's sake, Zooey, not stupid enough! If you please, increase the blank look in your eyes, hang your mouth open just so (demonstrates), and do just a little better at communicating the fact that you have not two brain cells to rub together."

Seriously! Did the actors have some secret debts they had to pay, and quick? Did they not look at this script? Have they not seen an M. Night movie since The Sixth Sense? What does this guy have to do to get fired? There are so many talented people in the world begging to work for free and yet M. Night continues to get paid! This is amazing to me. What secrets does he know?

Some gems from the script:

"Stay ahead of the wind."

Hunh? Does the power of the yellow sun suddenly extend past Kryptonians?

"Plants have the power to do this. They release co-transporters into the air."

I'm not kidding. That's an actual line! It's certainly news to me that plants release co-transporters into the air but I won't quibble overmuch (I'm not a plant biologist) at this plot device. However, if they do, what of it? What does this mean? Why is it even said? Co-transporters of what? And how are they then absorbed into a body to co-transport anything in a meaningful way?

"I'm talking to a plastic plant."

This I include as it's probably the only line that fit reasonably with what was going on.

"Primordial bacteria. ... It just appeared in the water."

Really? That's your explanation? It "just appeared." Thank goodness this guy wasn't my high school science teacher.

"Can we talk calmly for a minute. You see, I'm a teacher."

Again, not a thing do I have against teachers, but how is this an explanation of anything? Seriously, the man is convinced that any question can be answered with "I'm a teacher" and all will fall into place.

Dr Musacha sent The Editing Room's abridged script of The Happening my way and I thought these two bits were hilariously spot on:

Hey, a [sic] there’s a suicide epidemic in New York. People think terrorists are releasing some toxin in the air that’s causing people to kill themselves.

Awesome, disasters in movies tend to serve little purpose other than to unite families with problems. Perhaps this can fix my rocky marriage.

You see, it seems that plants became tired of the way we treat our environment, so they started releasing a deadly toxin.

Why didn’t they just stop producing oxygen?

Well where’s the unwatchable pile of garbage of a film in that?

rating: 1 of 5 stars


  1. Classic! It's one of THE WORST films I've ever sat through -- and I only did that because I thought it couldn't get any worst (and had to get better). I was wrong. I say this but still list THE SIXTH SENSE and UNBREAKABLE as some of my faves. It's hard to believe how bad M. Night's films and career have fallen. BTW, I've heard THE LAST AIRBENDER might beat out THE HAPPENING.

    I enjoyed reading this review, Rachel. Too funny. Thanks.

  2. THE SIXTH SENSE is one of my top movie-going experiences of all time!

    It is practically inconceivable to me that any movie could be worse than THE HAPPENING but I will no longer underestimate M. Night.

  3. I think you'll like this. It's a wonderful piece by an ex-pro script reader who writes for The Script Lab web site that takes apart what's wrong with this film from a scriptwriters POV:

    Fixing "The Problem": The Happening

  4. Thanks! Very interesting!