Lady in the Water (2006)


M. Night Shyamalan is nothing if not ambitious; I mean he creates films like a child seeking to spin his own stories in his own universe that could form a canon for aspiring filmmakers to launch from, and his vision gets in the way of his film and his fairy tale spins on its own while the film struggles to keep up. I enjoyed most of the fairy tale Shyamalan invents here involving a creature that can camouflage as grass, a mermaid, a giant eagle, and monkeys. If you’re wondering about his famous and infamous surprise ending, there isn’t one. There’s just one plot twist that’s interesting, and that’s all, so I won’t ruin much here. Shyamalan really seems to try for whimsical and on other moments, it works well. What’s ironic about “Lady in the Water” is that Shyamalan casts his film about a back story of fairy tales and odd characters, which falls on a setting of weird characters from a man whose one side of his body is muscular, an eccentric Asian mother and daughter, and a man who has a gift for words.

In the fold is a great cast including Paul Giamatti who is great as the every man hero who has to take on this task, and Howard has an eerie beauty about her that makes her interesting to look at. Shyamalan’s film really becomes coherent and interesting in the second half as we watch the power of community take hold on this evil force, and it’s intriguing. M. Night Shyamalan is so in love with both his fairy tale and himself that he creates quite possibly one of the most half-hearted yet one of the most self-congratulatory films of his career. He’s anxious to tell us “Look at this story, see how wondrous it is?” and it is indeed in some low key way potentially interesting, but his film isn’t.

I was so utterly disappointed with one of my most anticipated movies of the summer, and Shyamalan becomes his own worst enemy. After his scuffle and departure with Disney, Shyamalan’s warts become so apparent, that I hope he has something better up the pipeline. It’s bad enough that “Lady in the Water” lacks the same wonder and enthusiasm of other Shyamalan films, but Shyamalan is so obsessed with bringing intrigue and fantasy to the real world, that he doesn’t focus enough on giving strength to his core characters, the ones whom play a significant importance to the rest of the story. And it continues on with slight narration of the legend, so much dull extrapolation into his creatures, and monsters, and narfs, and scrunts, and our hero’s eager journey to discover who can save Story.

He even goes as far to include himself in a very prominent role as a man who will be an important figure in history, and there’s a character who speaks poetically to others while his son also speaks in a rather proper manner. And Giamatti’s journey to discover who summoned Story is dull and almost endless and you just want him to get to the point. His awe is missing from the setting and he invokes it all in legend. He’s desperate to bring Narnia to the real world, and it fails. And man is Story a one-dimensional character or what? For such a title character that has such importance and stress and is in dire need, she lacks all the mystique and or atmosphere required to keep audiences watching.

One of the most ridiculous aspects of the film however is Shyamalan’s spoofing of the critic with an arrogant obnoxious critic (Bob Balaban) who thinks he knows all and suffers an ill fate, a joke that is lost here, because Shyamalan so blatantly includes this in-joke that it fails in its delivery. Just like the rest of the film. In spite of the backlash given to Shyamalan, I’m a fan of his and I’ll continue being a fan for a while. But I was not a fan of “Lady in the Water”. It’s a flawed and utterly disappointing piece of filmmaking. While the film’s performances are intriguing and the direction tight, Shyamalan’s fairytale ends up being more interesting than the actual film. “Lady in the Water” is a misfire, and a sad one to witness.