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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.31%
Worth A Look: 22.02%
Average: 13.69%
Pretty Bad: 20.83%
Total Crap32.14%

12 reviews, 96 user ratings

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Lady in the Water
[] Buy posters from this movie
by William Goss

"Debacle In The Theatre"
1 stars

The tagline for 'Lady in the Water' reads, “Time is running out for a happy ending.” This sentence turns out to be a rather foreboding statement, as it simultaneously, and accurately, predicts not only one’s immediate notions while enduring the experience of writer/director M. Night Shyamalan’s latest folly (to put it mildly), but also one’s forecast concerning his career trajectory following such a fiasco. Tick, tock, Mr. Shyamalan. Tick, tock…

Get this: Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti, Sideways), a Philadelphia apartment building superintendent, finds a young woman (Bryce Dallas Howard, The Village) in the pool whose objective is to meet with a certain tenant and then leave. Now, hold on. The girl, named Story of all things, is actually a narf, a madame narf, thank you very much, and she must find and literally stare at a writer in order to inspire him, for his work will result in his death, but eventually benefit the world, before departing when a giant eagle takes her away. Threatening her mission is a scrunt, a grass-covered wolf whose mere scratches are toxic, and don’t even get me started on the trio of branch-covered protectors referred to as the tartutic. Oh, and throw in several capitalized roles for the building’s residents – the Guild, the Healer, the Interpreter, the Protector, the Writer/Director – while we’re at it. (Pay attention; there will be a quiz.)

Had this same movie been made by anybody else, one would still be hard-pressed to ever elevate it past ‘tolerable’. The intentions may be valid, to recreate the simplistic sensibility of a bedtime story, but the story itself is weak. However, in the hands of Shyamalan, it is not just a pathetic tale, but one poorly told. His formerly remarkable direction in the face of silly stories is no longer apparent, with several mishandled shots testing one’s retinas instead of peaking their interest, while the work of superb cinematographer Christopher Doyle goes to waste, particularly spoiled by sporadically shoddy CGI work. The story itself is tonally askew, with the torturously prolonged exposition unlikely to engage adults, the screwy plot and gloomy mood too much for kids, and no genuine scares, suspense, or satisfaction for anyone at all. It doesn’t know what it wants to be, so the usage of the term “bedtime story” in various publicity capacities lands as more of a blanket term for a genre hodgepodge than a genuinely interesting movie.

To boot, as much as one may want to disregard his previous works when approaching his latest project (personally? Loved The Sixth Sense, liked Signs, firmly meh on Unbreakable and The Village), he never hesitates to smother the viewer with his flagrant ego and remind them that this is his movie, and don’t you forget it. Besides the downright possessive tone with which his films are marketed, his frequent cameos are now expanded into a full-fledged supporting role as – wait for it – the fated author whose words will one day save the world at the cost of his life. When he asks Story if someone is going to kill him because he writes this, it turns out to be a strikingly prophetic remark. It doesn’t help matters that M. Night so eagerly puts himself in the line of fire, and had he cast someone else in his place and taken his name off of the title, it all might go down just a tad easier. Then again, even sans hubris, audiences would still have to stomach a plot that even a short bus wouldn’t brake for.

Lady in the Water allegedly began as a bedtime story for Shyamalan’s spawn, and as if The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D didn’t demonstrate enough why not to make movies directly influenced by the filmmaker’s offspring, he somehow believed that this was worth expanding into a full-length feature. (Perhaps he just got tired of repeating himself to the kiddies.) It’s not just the story that he’s asking viewers to swallow; it’s how he’s shoving it down our throats that botches the tale’s relative potential. One is supposed to be willing to take it in, as Cleveland does at one point, like a simple child free to substitute imagination for skepticism, but the required suspension of disbelief feels constantly tested and undermined by the murky mythos that M. Night keeps elaborating upon. Ultimately, the point seems to be about faith, which he tackled a bit better in Signs, and more so about a community believing in a greater goal, albeit any goal besides this one can’t help but appear feasible. However, even gullibility has to obey a certain logic, which is glaringly absent in this case. Imagination is one thing, but originality and creativity don’t necessarily equal quality.

As part of this world, every character has a role in the grand scheme of things, and as such, they each have exactly one trait, one purpose, and one dimension. There must be something in the water, or maybe Cleveland simply forgot to fix a gas leak, because there isn’t an ounce of skepticism amongst the residents when he approaches them for their help. For a film moderately grounded in modern society (the only glimpse of the world beyond the apartments is footage from the conflict in Iraq on every TV, a harsh reality from which they’re possibly escaping), a little reluctance would go a long way. But no, they’re all more than willing to inquire Story in a shower while she only responds in earlobe tugs and the like, or be equally eager when looking for veiled messages on cereal boxes, and so on. Cleveland himself has a stutter that mercifully vanishes in the company of Story, can somehow hold his breath for an obscenely long period while exploring her humble home beneath the pool, and conceals a tragic history that would be prime fodder in any other Shyamalan work, but feels rather superfluous here. Worst of all tenants are a mother and daughter of Oriental heritage, from whom Cleveland gradually learns the legend and who are borderline stereotypical in their exaggerated depiction. Even Ms. Swan would likely be offended.

There is always a constant puzzlement concerning how Uwe Boll attracts the actors he does in the face of mind-numbing awfulness, and from the look of things, he may have given M. Night a few pointers. Giamatti tries and tries to make Cleveland a reluctant hero of sorts, but only succeeds in embarrassing himself on multiple occasions (the stutter doesn’t help matters), while the previously-promising Howard spends the majority of her screen time whispering in a curled position, whether it be on Cleveland’s couch or the ever-popular shower of another apartment. Also among the actors inexplicably stooping so low are Jeffrey Wright (Broken Flowers), Jared Harris (The Notorious Bettie Page), Freddy Rodriguez (“Six Feet Under”), Mary Beth Hurt, and of most distinctive note, Bob Balaban (Capote), who plays the arrogant film critic, the man who swiftly identifies each character’s correspondence to the story, only to be proven wrong.

See, Mr. Farber is the latest tenant of The Cove, the sole individual stubborn enough to dismiss the current dilemma in the face of his persistent knowledge and effortless perception, and sure enough, the only character to get their comeuppance. Shyamalan plays this card not just to attack his attackers, but to defend himself from the surely scathing reviews to follow this project. What he fails to understand is that my colleagues are some of the most self-deprecating people around, and if anyone can take a joke about their profession, it’s them. However, as with anyone, a joke actually has to be good to work, and as Farber finds himself face-to-face with a scrunt, he then describes aloud how the situation is supposed to play out, a scene that is yet another gratuitous indulgence of his ego that only distracts from the story (and makes the film that much longer). The most that can be said about the inclusion of Mr. Farber is that he makes most every real critic looks better by comparison.

Maybe, Story saw into the future and told M. Night to hit rock bottom now, so that his career has nowhere to go but up. 'Lady in the Water' works only as a fascinating folly depicting the deterioration of a once-impressive storyteller, and even that isn’t reason enough for anyone outside of the most curious film buffs to spend two hours and ten bucks trying to endure it. Perhaps, deep down, M. Night wishes for the bitter cynics, the Farbers of the world to try and make a difference instead of being destructive. We can all begin to better our lives, first by avoiding whichever auditorium or channel is playing this film. See something else. Do something else. Hell, stare at some cereal boxes for a while until something more interesting begins to appear. He has a point: feel free to embrace your imagination, and as such, feel free to ignore his. Well, another critic dislikes your movie, Mr. Shyamalan. I’ve played right into your hands. Oh, how clever you must be. Now THERE'S a twist.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 08/10/06 12:24:12
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User Comments

10/02/20 steve Took me a couple views but i love this film!! 5 stars
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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