You must be aware of one major thing before going to see this movie: it is a bedtime story. Quite literally, this movie is based on a story that M. Night Shyamalan wrote for his children. This movie is in the realm of fantasy. It would be grouped with the Harry Potter series or The Chronicles of Narnia. Keeping that in mind, you have to be able to completely let the story be told and know that it’s not meant to be something that could happen to you or your neighbor. It is meant to be a fairy tale.
I feel I have to preface this review by saying I am a huge fan of M. Night‘s movies. I loved The Village. Signs is one of my Top Five favorite movies. And I am eagerly awaiting the rest of the Unbreakable trilogy, when Shyamalan decides to make them. That being said, I also went into this movie wanting to love it. This movie is not for everyone. If you’re looking for another Sixth Sense, forget it. If you’re looking for interesting characters and a well-told bedtime story, this it your movie.
The crazy cast of characters M. Night creates is charming, quirky and, of course, each of them has a purpose. Cleveland Heep is a stuttering, unassuming superintendent of The Cove (a cheap-seeming apartment complex) played by Paul Giamatti. I’m not a fan of his, mainly because I seem to be the only person other than Mike that hated Sideways. It was good casting, however, and he played his part well.
Bryce Dallas Howard was perfect casting for this role. I can’t see anyone else playing the part of Story, the lady in the water. She’s beautiful and captivating to watch. She has this strange way of speaking that seems to be part what’s written for her and part performance, but it just enhances the character.
Story is from “the blue world” and has come to Cleveland with a purpose. It is up to Cleveland to help her achieve her mission and return home safely. There are obstacles, of course, as in any good bedtime story. Story needs the help of certain people, people that don’t realize they can help her. It’s up to Cleveland and the tenants of The Cove to figure out who those people are and how it is they can help her.
Like every good bedtime story, there’s an evil character. A monster out to get the beautiful lady in the water. The monster is called a Scrat and its sole mission is to kill the lady in the water and keep her from completing her mission. It’s ugly and mean and big.
The story unfolds like most of M. Night‘s films. Characters who seemed like filler or comedic relief turn out to be of great importance to the plot. The ordinary people do the extraordinary to help someone in need. Simple character traits turn out to be the very purpose of the person’s life. While there’s no major twist ending like The Sixth Sense, the story does all come together at the end, similar to Signs. Everything has a reason, and everyone has a purpose.
I enjoyed that M. Night gave himself a bigger part in this movie. His character is integral to the plot of the story, and he seems sincere in his role. I liked the story a lot. It felt like an old-fashioned bedtime story, which I believe was its intention. Thinking about it afterward, I relate it to the A Wrinkle In Time book series. While you’re reading them, you want to believe every fantastic detail of the fantasy. The story is real until the moment you close the book, or in this case, leave the theater. Afterwards, it’s just a nice memory of an interesting tale.
There were things I didn’t like. I didn’t like that we saw the creature so often. Part of the reason the aliens in Signs and the creatures in The Village were so scary is because we rarely saw the whole being. We heard them, and caught short glimpses of them, and our imagination combined with the storytelling made them so much scarier than anything movie magic can show us. With this movie, however, they chose to show us the creature, in its entirety, near the beginning. It’s not nearly as scary now as it was when we only saw it for seconds in the previews.
There were a couple of scenes that seemed overdone, or unnecessary. There’s a scene where Cleveland is getting information from the older Asian mother and getting it translated by her daughter via cell phone. That scene could have been more to the point if all three were in the same room. I don’t think it was necessary to have the cell phone be the barrier in the story. There is also a very short scene in the laundry room near the end of the film that I think served only one purpose: to feature the color red, as in other films of the director’s.
Overall, however, I truly enjoyed the movie. I can’t recommend this movie to everyone, however. You have to decide if this is a movie you’d be interested in. If you’re looking for a fantasty movie, a great story that reminds you of bedtime stories your parents told you when you were young, go see this. If you’re looking for a scary movie with a great twist ending, go rent The Sixth Sense again.
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