Lady in the Water
Director: M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs, The Village, Unbreakable)
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Producers: M. Night Shyamalan, Sam Mercer
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 110 min
read my spoiler disclaimer

by Andrew James
     Holy crap. I mean that quite literally. This is the worst film I've seen this year. The only explanation is that M. Night Shyamalan dropped some acid one night, then wrote this preposterous story in about 6 hours and decided it would be funny if he could get Paul Giamatti to seriously discuss what a "narf" is with a Chinese woman via a translator on a cell phone.

      Here is a list of good things about this movie:
1) Paul Giamatti.

      Lady in the Water is about a woman who emerges from an apartment complex's pool (a hidden passage to the "blue world," which we never really get to see) to meet the chosen one. She is like a monolith, sent to inspire her vessel. But in order to discover who her vessel is, she needs the help of Cleveland Heep (Giamatti), a lovable, stuttering janitor who tends to the apartment complex. Together they recruit the necessary help from the people who dwell there. How they go about finding out which people they need and why they need them, is the dumbest part of the story and where the whole thing sinks to the bottom of the pool.

      Ths story starts out okay with some potential to have an interesting and original story arc. It looks like it might be a neat fantasy story which will lead us into a world unlike anything we've ever seen. After 30 minutes though, things start to go sour. To avoid giving things away (like it matters), I can't be too specific. Suspension of disbelief is not only a requisite for this film, but a near impossibility with the sheer magnitude of the leaps and bounds of implausibility that the characters take in order to succeed in their "mission." One example would be that by looking at a crossword puzzle (for no apparent reason, it's this specific crossword puzzle) they are able to decode this huge elaborate scheme by looking at 3 words. It just makes no sense whatsoever. And that is only one example; wait til you get to the cereal boxes. God, this movie was awful!

      The preposterousness of the entire story isn't really what bothered me. It's supposed to be preposterous. It's a fairy tale. It actually takes aspects of about 5 different fairy tales and crunches them all together in one huge splotch on the screen. Creatures aren't adequately explained and pop out of nowhere, illogical decisions are made by the characters as if we are supposed to think, "oh, of course. Why didn't I think of that?" Please.

      The actors: pretty much every character is of below average interest and/or charisma. Aside from Giamatti, whose genius just doesn't have big enough shoulders to carry this gargantuan trash can, most of the actors are completely forgettable. Although a broad generalization, my comment in the car on the way home, was that they all sucked. I stick by that. Howard (who was so great in "The Village") was hollow and lifeless. Director M. Night Shyamalan makes an appearance in this movie as a fairly visible character. He's made cameos in his other films, but in this one he is very central to what plot there is. Is he good? Meh, I could take him or leave him. I think he just wants to be more visible to the world. Congratulations.

      There was one character I did kind of like. A movie/book critic played by writer/director Bob Balaban. Some of his lines were witty and funny. It is an obvious knock on Shyamalan's harsh critics; and Shyamalan strikes back. Although the critics will get the last laugh after seeing this dung pile. I chuckled at this character's rants and musings. No one else in the theater did. They laughed at other scenes in the movie, but I think those may have been unintentionally funny. It's difficult to say.

      Basically, don't spend a dime on this. It may be worth a rental one day just to be able to laugh and shake your head in bewilderment. My first thought was that it was a nice idea that didn't go anywhere. It might've worked as a week long mini-series. We need much more story development time and some more explanations. Then I realized it wasn't a nice idea, there was no idea at all. It was a conglomeration of ideas put together by a mad man. Avoid this film at all costs. Or at least avoid spending money on it. You'll find yourself feeling all wet. I'm almost insulted.

Links: - full cast and crew
Official Site
FLIXSTER PROFILE for Lady in the Water