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Overall Rating

Awesome: 10.78%
Worth A Look: 22.16%
Average: 13.77%
Pretty Bad: 20.96%
Total Crap32.34%

12 reviews, 95 user ratings

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Lady in the Water
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by Erik Childress

"Mr. Shyamalan Is Ready For His Close-Up, Mr. Shyamalan."
2 stars

When Alfred Hitchcock put himself into his movies, it was a silent cameo; a gimmick that turned into a lark sometimes as a walk-on and sometimes as a mere shadow as the audience got to play “Where’s Waldo?” decades before it peaked. Martin Scorsese played a manic, paranoid version of himself in Albert Brooks’ The Muse (and to some extent, Taxi Driver.) Steven Spielberg played a County Tax Collector in The Blues Brothers and then spoofed himself in Austin Powers’ Goldmember. (Neither his own film.) Since The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan has played a doctor, a drug dealer, the alien trapper who killed Mel Gibson’s wife and the sheriff who explains the entire plot of The Village with a convenient reflection to give his mug screen time as well as his voice. Each role has increased in screen time and grown in importance. In Lady in the Water, the masturbatory ego that is Manoj plays a Machiavellian writer working on a book that will someday inspire at least one young member of a new generation to rise up and change the country for the better. It goes without saying that the title of this particular manuscript is not Lady in the Water.

Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) is a lowly, stutterin’ superintendent for a Philadelphia apartment complex. When arriving “film & book critic” (Bob Balaban) moves in, we get a tour of its tenants; a cast of characters who may or may not be fitting into the fantasy Cleveland is about to be drawn into. That splashing in the pool he’s been hearing at night belongs to Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), a narf who saves his life and winds up wearing nothing but his shirt for the rest of the film. Oh sorry, should I go back to that whole narf bit? As somewhat explained in the prologue, narfs are water creatures or “sea nymphs” who have tried to protect our world from ourselves long before the days when men and their hunt for land and power drove them into hiding.

Story has come into our world to seek out a writer (yes, that writer) who is going to save the world, for lack of a better destiny. While Cleveland seeks out knowledge from an Asian student (Cindy Cheung) who may as well have a Fu Manchu stache and Mickey Rooney teeth, Story is in danger from the scrunts. Jeez, do you need to know what a scrunt is? My god, c’mon! Scrunts are wolf-like creatures capable of lawn camoflauge (thanks to their pointy grass fur) who hunt down the narfs out of their element even though there’s some understanding between them broken by the occasional rogue scrunt. Christ – everyone knows that! So it’s up to Cleveland to put the pieces together so Story can complete her mission and be on time for her pick up from the “Eagle” without becoming scrunt chum.

Simple bedtime story my ass. If this is the tale Shyamalan has been telling his daughters for years, I can’t imagine them making it to the narf’s first appearance let alone through all the machinations of all her unknown protectors and daddy’s view of film critics. In the atypical manner of Manoj’s arrogance of his own greatness, Cleveland seeks out the advice of Balaban’s snobbish critic since he should naturally be able to pinpoint the mystery identities of the “Protector”, the “Guild”, the “Interpreter” and the “Healer.” Balaban cleverly spurts out the clichés that filmmakers use to subvert audience attention in a scene that a less egocentric filmmaker would design to parody his own intentions. But in Night’s world, film critics are self-important jackasses who overanalyze everything who believe they are the most important people in the room and are always wrong. Without a sense of the irony involved in this view after casting himself in the role that he does, Night uses the film critic to show that we’re all wrong and that he’s smarter than us and especially the guy “so arrogant that he’d put this young woman in danger.”

Except M.N. Shyamalan is not as smart as he knows he is. If he was he would have followed Nina Jacobson’s advice that this script was a gigantic mess while it was still on the page. With his miniscule filmmaking skills, Lady in the Water becomes even more convoluted and achieves a level of insanity only found within the minds of isolated mental patients. Consider the evil scrunt roaming the complex. It’s red eyes can only be seen through a mirror if your back is turned to them while they are camoflauged. OK, so then why does it seemingly disappear when Balaban finds Giamatti sprawled out just after it charged him and then yet appear to others involved in helping Story and then attack the one person not involved who may have actually indirectly helped the scrunt? These floundering rules are even more of a trifle when Manoj tries to craft a suspense sequence at a party that is such a failure of tone, geography and good sense that we’re left asking what the point eventually was. Scrunts are supposed to be killers, but mostly scratch and drag their pray through the lawn before giving up. In Night’s world, lawn sprinklers are to be feared, but grassy wolf beings are MacGuffins.

Surrounding the horrific elements (and I use the adjective both loosely and encapsulating) is Manoj Night S’s childhood rediscovery theme. After Bruce Willis twice finding new purpose in his life, Mel Gibson rediscovering his faith and the nutjobs who just tucked away forever in The Village, Giamatti and his tenants have all lost a connection with their youthful innocence. War is a constant on the television. One seeks solace in puzzles; others in pot. The critic is a curmudgeon who can’t find fun at the movies and Giamatti has a personal tragedy that he confronts only in his diary. This is precisely where someone like Tim Burton, Joe Dante, Robert Zemeckis or Spielberg would have found a way to mold this story into something emotionally viable and devastating. Instead, MNS shakes us from our seats in case we weren’t adapting to his genius by having one character refuse to divulge details if their audience didn’t first act like a baby and another fulling announcing that they want to hook up with their inner child. If Lady in the Water is any indication, it’s the best declaration for inner child abortion since the Chucky movies.

Wasting perhaps the most beautiful score (by James Newton Howard) of any film I’ve seen so far this year and the talents of Paul Giamatti who has genuine moments of pathos and comedy here, ShyaMalanight exposes himself further for the fraud that he is. Poor Bryce Dallas Howard, blind in The Village and virtually mute here, will be remembered for looking paler than Tilda Swinton playing E.T., then any semblance of a character. Why is she forced into playing hair-pulling charades while sitting under her lifeforce (after JUST having a conversation with Cleveland) as everyone is asking her the most important questions of the movie? A better question is just who the hell does M. F’ing Night Shyamalan think he is taking more screen time with a supporting cast including Jeffrey Wright, Jared Harris, Balaban, Freddy Rodriguez (in a role that has to be seen to be believed) and Mary Beth Hurt? Dude gives himself more close-ups than the glory hole in a porno film, but maybe that’s where he stems his inspiration from. (Nymph with Chasey Lain – check it out!) Lady in the Water manages to be more ridiculous than The Village, but its utter lunacy makes it the least monotonous of all his work. I may just be a lowly film critic not hoodwinked by his work, but the one prescient thing associated with the soothsaying around his self-appointed savior character is that if he continues along the path he’s on now – someone is going to take him out and it won’t just be a film critic. It’ll be the audience. Then the studios. Then a filmmaker more qualified to make the brand of film he’s been trying to make for years.

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originally posted: 07/21/06 14:24:29
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell not bad imo 4 stars
2/07/17 Leires The movie was sitting on a TNT barrel. Love/hate stuff indeed. 3 stars
7/31/16 Jaekn Not worth the $5.00 to own in one of those superstore box deals 1 stars
3/17/16 Luisa Shyamalan needs to stop acting in his films, no onscreen charisma, it ruins the film 3 stars
5/19/14 JP Williams Standing ovation from a packed theater when my wife and I first saw this. Really enjoyable. 5 stars
3/12/14 Howard Mark Yes, I was in bed, tired as all get out, but my imagination was captured by the characters, 4 stars
7/09/13 Reptilesni Ordinary people become part of something extraordinary. I love this film. 5 stars
2/10/13 Langano If you don't take it so serious you just might enjoy the story. 4 stars
9/20/12 jenn thanks for this, my family and I love this movie. 4 stars
2/06/12 Monica S Charming, moving fairy tale . . . if you give it a chance. Wonderful acting. 4 stars
1/12/11 Perk Good movie. Very sweet fairytale. Might make u cry! Happy ending:) 5 stars
8/09/10 Eric Quite pleasant and a great deal of fun. Good work on storytelling. 4 stars
8/08/10 Bill P Surprisingly good! Great Giamatti! I've recommended it to friends. Surprised at the critic 4 stars
11/07/09 jimbob a picture for the evolved with wonderment, one of the best movies ever, you know i truth 5 stars
10/28/09 Steve I find myself watching it over and over each time it comes on. Flawed, but so enjoyable. 4 stars
6/21/09 JR Wow, so M. Night plays a gifted writer/ prophet who saves the world. My God, what an ego. 1 stars
3/17/09 :] wth...? 1 stars
3/08/09 Raul Valdez Jr not that bad 4 stars
2/21/09 ES Drew me in and kept me up late wanting to see what would happen, lots of great ideas n fun 4 stars
1/20/09 gLottis Giamatti was very genuine, and the film was enchanting 4 stars
1/13/09 Anonymous. one of the worst films i've ever seen. 1 stars
12/21/08 tain movie was interesting... best soundtrack EVER. 3 stars
12/05/08 Shaun Wallner Very Boring! 1 stars
10/23/08 Bonnie An adult fairytale to be sure, and not a bad one, but his true talet lies in scaring people 4 stars
10/13/08 g. just ok 3 stars
9/30/08 Tim Paul Giamatti's Cleveland Heep won me over as he struggled with the pain of his loss. 5 stars
9/28/08 Sean Imaginative and insightful into a fairytale. Absolutely beautiful. 4 stars
9/21/08 Callum It is a beautiful movie. A fairytale everyone should watch. 4 stars
7/25/08 Helden Multilayered & surprisingly satisfying...I enjoy every MNS film I see. 4 stars
7/25/08 jeanne Masturbatory, self-indulgent, utter bollocks! A criminal waste of Giamatti, Wright, Balaban 1 stars
6/22/08 David This film is a brilliant Myth. Dumbies don't get it. 5 stars
6/16/08 LordHat Very good. 5 stars
6/15/08 Casey When I told people who didn't like it, it was a fairytale, I saw a lightbulb go on 5 stars
6/14/08 Steph This movie could be an IQ test. The narrow-minded dim-wits will hate it. 5 stars
3/25/08 John Smith Great film, great review - (not automatically biased as so many critics are!) 5 stars
2/09/08 Deltaboy49 This film has a big, big heart and is full of wonderment 5 stars
1/11/08 pablo Much better than all that Harry Potter nonsense 3 stars
10/02/07 Rick Utter failure, nothing intriguing or new about the ideas 1 stars
8/21/07 Jubei A mess of a film.Zemeckis would've made magic with this premise.Unnerving. 1 stars
8/14/07 Claire Beautifully un-cynical 5 stars
7/07/07 me crappy movie, made no sense 1 stars
7/01/07 Danielle Ophelia I didn't hate it, but I was constantly aware of its shortcomings. 3 stars
5/09/07 Charone Easily one of the dumbest movies I've ever seen in my entire life. 1 stars
4/19/07 zenshark Don't waste your time. 2 stars
4/02/07 Quigley Giamatti is excellent; this movie is not. The opening sequence is the best part 2 stars
3/28/07 fools♫gold OthehumorofShyamalan: castinghimselfastheimportantwriter"whosewordswon'tbeunderstood4years" 3 stars
3/03/07 David Pollastrini Bryce is hot! 2 stars
2/20/07 Stu Padasso It made me believe in people again. 4 stars
2/14/07 The chode Garbage. 1 stars
1/30/07 Indrid Cold A bold, unusual idea for a major studio movie, but it ends up muddled and boring. 3 stars
1/26/07 alice oh my god, this was so boring I could see dead people ! 1 stars
1/11/07 Tracey Chambers How quickly he believes shes something other than ordinary. Turned me off. 1 stars
1/01/07 Rubye Intriguing for those with imagination and magical souls 5 stars
12/28/06 grace yost it was great, excellent will watch it again and again 5 stars
12/15/06 Donny Martwick First half had so much potental. They should of had 100 wolfs and magic powers. 2 stars
12/04/06 Mike Self-indulgent 2 stars
9/27/06 Raj Its like having E Coli for dinner. VOMIT INDUCING CRAP! 1 stars
9/27/06 Erin Amidon ET meets SPLASH and both are utterly clueless as to what to do with each other! 2 stars
9/15/06 Ben The water in my toilet looks better than this! 1 stars
9/15/06 M Night Worth 2 C Not formula mainstream flick 4 stars
9/13/06 Poonam THE WORST FILM OF THE YEAR 1 stars
9/04/06 Jenny Um - The Village was better than this movie - if that tells you anything! 2 stars
9/03/06 Dragon The Artist Not too bad, a hell of a lot better than The Village,about as medieocre as Signs 3 stars
8/30/06 Killjoy Sleep inducing movie he made for his kids and we have to endure the torture! 1 stars
8/26/06 Stanley Thai Not one of M. Night's best but still a great film. 4 stars
8/25/06 Al Guy He's getting tiring. 2 stars
8/24/06 Chad Thomas M. Night has lost his mind! 1 stars
8/22/06 G Sherfy "Tepid" is apt; the world wisens to Night's trick that he's a good direc. 1 stars
8/18/06 KAREN MATLOCK very disappointing 2 stars
8/15/06 Rohit Shocker from the guy who made 'Sixth Sense' - Night gone mental here 1 stars
8/15/06 Becca totally blew ass. cried laughing. WORST MOVIE EVERRR. 1 stars
8/11/06 michael average and wait for the DVD 4 stars
8/10/06 melivorous Great Storytelling 4 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist A hell of a lot better than that everso disappionting The Villiage, thats for sure!! 4 stars
8/06/06 Roadkill Report If you notice, at least in a dozen scenes in the move you can actually see the overhead mic 1 stars
8/06/06 Erik Van Sant Somebody peed in the pool. M. Night Shama-lama-ding-dong has flown the coop. 1 stars
8/05/06 nicklor24 one of my top 10 films, original and fantastic, check it out 5 stars
8/02/06 Forderve So different and original, it's a good fairy tale with deeper meaning than most movies 5 stars
8/02/06 Caddy One of the best movies I've ever seen. Too bad people are so cynical these days. 5 stars
8/02/06 Tim in VA A dreadfully boring and possibly drug-induced cinematic excretion. Two thumbs down. 1 stars
8/01/06 Luisa Great actors...bad movie...M.Knight is only getting worse...he needs to lose the ego... 2 stars
7/31/06 Marty original concept but obvious vendetta for critics. giamatti rocked. 3 stars
7/30/06 Sano Charming, Original...I liked it as well. 4 stars
7/29/06 Troy M. Grzych Held my interest but was a bit slow. I enjoyed the ride. 4 stars
7/28/06 Bad Critic Idea (Narphs and Scrunts) was retarded... but Giamatti was typical with a great performance 3 stars
7/25/06 Ole Man Bourbon Beyond ridiculous. Superlatively horrid. Egad. 1 stars
7/25/06 moondog cliché, tired, expected... worst movie I've ever seen 1 stars
7/24/06 Mark This deserves negative stars 1 stars
7/24/06 ahnold Still imaginitive, original and entertaining. 4 stars
7/24/06 Jay Yup this movie sucked big time. Oh and the Chinese woman is actually Korean. 1 stars
7/23/06 Roy Smith It's ridiculous...and I loved it. I'm strange, so sue me. 4 stars
7/22/06 David Hollingsworth It really doesn't make sense. 2 stars
7/22/06 Nightjorn crap movie crap movie crap movie 1 stars
7/22/06 scotty great movie great movie great movie 5 stars
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  21-Jul-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 19-Dec-2006



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