Spoiler Alert — I’m not going to spend any time pretending the big twist at the end of this film is worth keeping secret for those who haven’t seen The Happening yet. Don’t read this if for some reason you haven’t heard that it’s the plants killing everyone.
I was fully warned about everything this movie is not before I rented it. I knew it’d be bad, I knew it’d be laughable, but I still wanted to see what steaming pile of pretentious trash M. Night Shyamalan served up this time.
I’m not sure what was more difficult to swallow, the fact that the trees were convincing people to jump into lions’ cages, or run themselves over with lawn mowers, or the fact that Mark Walhberg plays a science teacher who really shows a sincere interest in his students (in the same vein, John Leguizamo plays a nerdy math teacher; maybe it’s just me, but he belongs is trashy 70s clubs, snorting cocaine and doing prostitutes). But this is what M. Night wants us to do. Elliot and Julian are teachers at a New York middle school when something starts happening. Everyone in Central Park first stops moving, then starts to kill themselves in horrible ways (yes, it seems Shyamalan attempted to take Final Destination to higher places). New York begins an evacuation throwing more characters in the mix. There’s Alma (Zooey Deschanel), Elliot’s emotionally distant wife, there’s Jess, Julian’s young daughter who’s unable to show her emotions, there’s the crazy man that talks to his plants and gives birth to the theory that it’s the plants killing everyone, and a string of other un-inventive and flat characters.
The press surrounding the film widely advertised The Happening as M. Knight’s ‘first rated R movie!’ This seems like nothing more than a ploy to overcome his most recent box office, and critical disappointments. Perhaps, he may have thought, over the top violence and gore will deter people from noticing I no longer produce anything worthwhile. It’s a shame this has happened. Part of the glory of his earlier films (Sixth Sense, Signs) was his restraint with those aspects, and his focus and building characters and tension instead of pouring fake blood over everything. The acting was mostly one demensional, probably because of the overly forced script, and also because one of the main characters used to make money grabbing his crotch and rapping in CK underwear in the early nineties. The script is as bad as the direction and there is nothing redeeming about this flaccid film.
Warning: This is the redband trailer.