June 21, 2008
Review - " The Happening " (in Theaters) - By Roland Hansen
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Directed by M Night Shamalan
Written by M Night Shamalan
Starring: Mark Wahlberg (Elliot Moore), Zooey Deschanel
(Alma Moore), John Leguizamo (Julian), Betty Buckley (Mrs.
Jones), Frank Collison
"The Happening" starts out with typical M. Night offbeat
promise, chronicling a wave of bizarre, inexplicable suicides
taking place in and around New York City's Central Park.
There are grizly and oft disturbing images including frank
depictions of stabbings, gunshots to the head, hangings,
and human bodies slamming into the ground at the base of
a construction site.
Cut to the high school where science teacher Elliot Moore is soliciting guesses from his students as to why honey bees are
disappearing all over the U.S. It's decided amongst the class that - regardless of how far scientific knowledge advances,
there will always be "forces at work beyond our understanding."
There transpires an administrative meeting in which the teachers are told that they and their students should go home
because of a suspected terrorist attack on the city. Details are sketchy, but apparently there's some sort of biological agent
responsible for the spreading epidemic of self-slaughter. School's out, with a vengeance.
Mark Wahlberg is the high school science teacher who evacuates Philadelphia along with his wife (Zooey Deschanel), his
fellow teacher ( John Leguizamo) and his friend's daughter (Ashlyn Sanchez). To the country! We'll be safe there! Wahlberg
and company form a ragtag band of brothers and sisters, determined to survive. We know trouble's coming whenever the
breeze picks up and the grass starts to sway.
Once aboard the moving train, people begin hearing (on radios, via cell phone) of more and more outbreaks of the suicidal
plague. When the train stops at a podunk station in rural Pennsylvania, Elliot confronts the conductors to find out what's up.
"We've lost contact," one of them tells him. "With who?", Elliot asks. "With everyone," intones the conductor, ominously.
Which causes one to wonder why the railroad management have deprived their employees of modern communication
devices, since passengers on the train have been conversing with their far-flung friends and relations without interruption.
Elliot and his wife Alma hook up with a kindly,if somewhat goofy, couple who operate the local nursery. The cockeyed owner
(Frank Collison) explains his theory about the deadly goings-on, and it has the ring of truth. Without giving away the whole
vegetarian enchilada, it seems Mother Nature's pissed off by human depredations and she's not going to take it any more.
They're all on foot by now, having further determined that it's not safe on the roads. After half of the group falls prey to the
self-extinction craze, the remainder realize that it's only by splitting up into small groups that they can avoid the madness.
Our protagonists eventually end up at an isolated farmstead owned by a weird woman named Mrs. Jones , who's so paranoid
already that telling her about the rampant suicide plague seems like a bad idea. When even Mrs. Jones' little enclave is hit
by the bug, all seems lost. Or will love conquer all and carry the day?
In the end it all turns out to be Al Gore's worst nightmare.
The ending is incredibly cheesy and poorly done. It spoils
what would otherwise be a competent, but not particularly
creepy, film. The news report at the end of the film was
completely unbelievable and definitely the low point of the
movie. It would have been much better to have Vice
President Gore wake up next to Suszanne Pluchette and
find Bobby Ewing in the shower, to discover that everything
was just a dream.
You will definitely have to walk out, which is too bad.
A topless scene by the always lovely Zooey might have
saved this otherwise lackluster movie.