tek's rating: meh and a half

Lady in the Water (PG-13)
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Caution: potential spoilers.

Sigh. What can I say? I'm vaguely a fan of M. Night Shyamalan, though of course some of his movies are not that good. And this is one of them. But I still always want to check out his films, because I feel they always have the potential to be good. Anyway, the start of the movie has some narration about the ancient past, which vaguely reminded me of the opening of Ferngully, though I think actually that type of thing has been done in other movies I've seen, too. I should also mention that throughout the movie, whenever I thought it was kinda silly, I worried that it might be based on some actual myth or something, but I guess it was really just based on a bedtime story Shyamalan had made up to tell his own kids. Which means I don't have to feel any guilt over finding it fairly ludicrous.

Okay, let me see if I can explain this to you. Long ago, humans were, like, friends of water people from "the blue world," which I guess just meant the ocean, or whatever. And then humans moved away from the water, and lost touch with the water people. There's a bit more to it than that, but that's all you really need to know. After the opening narration, we see this apartment complex, where a guy named Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) works as a handyman, or whatever. And we meet the various tenants, who are all eccentric, in their own ways. At the start of the movie, a film critic named Mr. Farber moves into the complex. There's also a young woman named Young-Soon Choi, a college student who lives with her mother. And a guy named Mr. Dury, who lives with his son, Joey (the kid looked familiar to me, and after looking at IMDb, I see that I knew him for playing Micah on Heroes). And there was a guy named Vick Ran (though I didn't pick up on his name while watching the movie) who was played by Shyamalan himself. He lived with his sister, Anna. And he was writing a book of thoughts on... politics and stuff, I guess. There was a guy named Reggie who was... um, working out one side of his body, as a "scientific experiment," for no apparent reason (so one arm and leg were more muscular than the other arm and leg). And there was a guy named Mr. Leeds who never left his apartment (until later in the film). And... various other tenants, okay? But um... there's supposed to be no swimming in the pool after 7pm, I guess, but Cleveland had heard splashing at night, and then one night he goes out to the pool and finds... someone. She stays mostly under the water, and then I guess while he's trying to find her, he almost drowns, and so she rescues him.

Cleveland wakes up in his apartment, and this girl is there, wearing nothing but one of his shirts. She says her name is Story (Bryce Dallas Howard). But she doesn't really talk much. I think he heard her say a word in her sleep or something, but I missed it. Later he asked Young-Soon about the word, I guess. (She often lent him books, which I guess is the only explanation for why he asked her.) The word was "narf," which to me is just an exclamation Pinky would frequently blurt out on Pinky and the Brain, but Young-Soon said "narf" was something from a bedtime story her grandmother used to tell, though she doesn't remember the story. So, throughout the film Cleveland has her ask her mother about the story, but she mostly just speaks Chinese, so Young-Soon has to translate. And, it turns out a narf is a water nymph... and apparently, that's what Story is. And this whole mythology unfolds, slowly, about her need to find someone who was a "vessel," who will be "awakened" when he sees her. And there are other people, including a guardian, an interpreter of symbols, a guild, and a healer. And none of them know what they themselves are. But they all have a role to play in protecting the narf, and stuff. And there's a wolf-like creature called a scrunt which wants to attack and kill her, before she can return home, carried by a giant eagle called an eatlon. And... eh, there's a bit more to it, but none of it really makes sense.

Whatever. I don't know why Cleveland was so quick to just accept all this. (Being that the film was made by Shyamalan, I was expecting a twist; I thought maybe it would turn out Story was just pretending to be a narf, having heard of the story somewhere.) But it's all real. I will say the scrunt was a reasonably good special effect, which was the earliest indication that everything was for real. There were other proofs later, as well. This may constitute a spoiler, ironically, but I'm telling you anyway: there's no twist ending. I mean, not really. The only possible twist is people making incorrect guesses as to which tenants were meant to fill which roles, but I don't really consider that a twist, because it was so... predictable. I mean, considering the movie makes a point of the fact that none of them know what they are, and everything in the plot is so vague, and even the supposed symbolist expressed serious doubts about his own role.... *shrug* It would just be plain pointless to try to figure any of this out in the first place. All you can do is watch the movie and let it tell you what it wants to tell you, when it wants. And then change its mind. None of it ever makes the remotest bit of sense. Not when they get things wrong, and not when they eventually get things right. In any event, Cleveland wants to protect Story, and he somehow gets the other tenants to help. I don't know what else to tell you.

I am leaving out a few details of plot and character development, but not much. None of it really seems that important, even if it's meant to be. There are some things in the movie that are apparently intentionally amusing, but the overwhelming majority of the amusement I found in the movie seems to be unintentional. I don't really feel like the premise is necessarily ridiculous, and I'm a fan of fantasy, so I easily could have enjoyed a story with some of these elements. But somehow, the way it all played out... it was just totally ridiculous. And therefore, funny. Look, I bought the DVD used, for three bucks, and I definitely think the movie was worth watching for two dollars, just for the unintentional humor. And the "serious" fantasy story was... worth a buck, itself. On top of that, I did actually sort of vaguely like some of the characters and rare bits of dialog.

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