Worth A Look: 16.72%
Pretty Bad: 17.96%
Total Crap: 38.39%
13 reviews, 245 user ratings
by Scott Weinberg
About six hours ago a friend asked me what I think of M. Night Shyamalan's movies. I responded with something like "The guy's three for three. He's made two excellent films and one very good one. I can see why he might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I think he's great." And then I sat down to watch "The Village".Imagine a 5th-grade Thanksgiving pageant starring William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver and Adrien Brody as "the retarded guy". Imagine Days of Our Lives mixed with Little House on the Prairie (with a nominal sprinkling of The Twilight Zone to appease the geeks).. Imagine a socio-religio-political parable that has precisely nothing to say - and says it slowly.
You could imagine a lot of crazy things, but few as curiously terrible as The Village. Seems that the insanely profitable Mr. Shyamalan has been afforded the carte blanche / blank check treatment reserved for only the most gold-plated of Hollywood moviemakers, and it's precisely that sort of artistic freedom that has yielded such an overblown, self-satisfied and unintentionally hilarious yawn-fest like The Village.
The plot focuses on a late-19th century village full of weirdos. (It's tough to tell exactly how many people live in The Village, but my bet is that the issue of inbreeding will soon be of paramount concern.) The Village-rs live by an arcane code of laws: 1. Never leave The Village. Like, ever. Not for medicine or anything. Seriously, no leaving. 2. Red is evil. Nobody knows why, but if you see something that's red, just bury it immediately. 3. Don't talk about "certain" things. You can tell what these things are because we'll refer to them as Those we shall not name and The garden shed we shan't not enter.
So there's noises in the woods and the occasional dead animal carcass strewn across a confused villager's butter churn. Town Grampa (William Hurt) informs us that "creatures" live in yonder woods, beasties that remain in abeyance because... well, they just do. And in return for not being skinned alive and left atop a butter churn, the villagers agree not to enter the forest. Basically the same set of rules you'll see in a zoo.
There's much hand-wringing and angst-laden chit-chat about "the towns" and "those we dare not shan't name by name" and which blonde sister is marrying which dung-covered villager...
And it's about this point that every single moviewatcher in the entire universe (who know full well the modus operandi of Mr. Shyamalan) finds their thoughts beginning to wander...right through the dry-as-paper plot schpiel to the eternal question of "What's the TWIST ending gonna be this time?" And when you find yourself wishing a movie would speed up and get to the END already...well, that's not a particularly good movie, now is it?
I find it difficult to even criticize actors like William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Adrien Brody and Joaquin Phoenix. They're supremely talented performers and I consider myself a fan of all four. But...wow. The work they do here is stilted, stoic, stock-still and altogether lifeless. It's as if Shyamalan was right out of frame yelling "No! Slower! Like, put periods between each word. Slower!" I get that these are supposed to be quaint, soft-spoken Olde Englishe type people, but I've heard toddlers read quicker than this. And more articulately. And less humorously.
Try to stifle a giggle when a character petulantly refers to a "meat festival" or when poor William Hurt is forced to unspool a litany of fill-in-the-blanks expositon so arcane it boggles the mind. Try also to look past those big, looming lock boxes that everyvillager seems to own, the sloppy handful of Fake Scares that must be applied when your movie contains no Actual Scares, and a third act that feels patched together at random.
(There's a scene late in the film that instantly ranks as the shoddiest of M. Night's young career; it involves a locked room, a few torn-up floorboards and some breathlessly delivered ADR insert regarding "Oh, we shouldn't have left that [RED HERRING] underneath that floorboard!!" I swear it's like something out of Ed Wood.)
Shyamalan presents all of this with a stone-faced visage, though (like any good "movie retard") Adrien Brody earns some simplistically shallow laughs from his overexagerrated physicality and his perpetually dopey grin. The rest of the chuckles come in the Unintentional variety: Ms. Weaver reciting dialogue as if it's a blurry grocery list, visual flourishes that focus on nothing but the flourish itself, a grim and flimsy gravitas that permeates every silly frame.
And for all the "discussion" the film may incite...it creates a helluva lot more questions that it does answers.This is a film that doesn't adhere to its own internal logic, that casually tosses out false clues before hastily brushing them under the closest carpet (keep your ears peeled for something called "magic rocks"), that introduces a few pointless contrivances for no good reason, that is presented in the most pretentious purple prose conceivable, that moves forward at a snail's pace, and offers a destination more infuriating than it is fascinating.
In other words, a huge disappointment in every possible way, and frankly I'm a little shocked that something this scatterbrained could come from the man who did The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable.Considering the talent and the resources behind this movie, "The Village" has to be considered one of the year's biggest misfires. And yet, as much as I actively disliked this thing...I still can't wait for Night's next movie. 3 for 4 is still a pretty solid average.
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originally posted: 07/30/04 19:52:54