Awfully Good #50
ED. NOTE: "Awfully Good" is a weekly column, running every Wednesday at our sister site The DVD Clinic, that brings you the best of the worst in movies. This week Jason Adams came up with a column so (please pardon the pun) awfully good, I had to share it with you here. You can check out the full archive of "Awfully Good" here.
The Happening (2008)
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, Mother Nature
Is there a plot?
Something’s happening that’s making people kill themselves in violent ways. And it’s not forced viewings of LADY IN THE WATER.
What's the damage?
Warning: I’m going to spoil the crap out of this movie.
I’d like to start the 50th edition of this column by giving a shout out to M. Night Shyamalan, as he’s obviously an Awfully Good fan. There’s no other plausible explanation for a single part of THE HAPPENING than to assume the director set out to make an unbelievable, laughably bad movie on purpose.
Mark Wahlberg talks to animals. This man is not Mark Wahlberg.
To explain its true greatness, we must enter spoiler territory . Ready….? In a twist that would make Al Gore rub his nipples with glee, it’s the plant life on Earth that’s rebelling against humans for their mistreatment of the environment. Yes, the plants are the villains here. And not in a cool Poison Ivy-killer vines kinda way; the greenery just sits there and releases invisible toxins. (This leads to some truly hilarious ominous shots of still trees and bushes.) And to make things exciting, Shyamalan adds another more kinetic bad guy…the wind. Yes, there are serious action sequences in THE HAPPENING that consist of the main characters running from the wind. In an open field. It’s like watching TWISTER without the tornadoes.
And at the very end, when our heroes finally get trapped and face instant death by chlorophyll, nothing happens. Marky Mark and Co. step in to the killer wind and there’s literally no explanation why they don’t bite the big one, except when someone says, “Oh, I guess the event must’ve ended.” That’s like having Freddy Kreuger come out at the end of NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and say, “You know, I don’t feel like murdering you kids anymore. I’m gonna go jump on a pogo stick.”
In this sequel to the 1993 Oscar-winning film, Tom Hanks is back and he is seriously pissed off about his AIDS.
But it’s not just the plot that makes THE HAPPENING a winner at losing. The film is generously helped by its cast. I like Mark Wahlberg. The guy can be a great actor given the right material, but here he turns every moment of tension in to comedy with his bizarre and high-pitched delivery. Even more impressive is Shyamalan’s magical ability to turn the adorable Zooey Deschanel in to a whiny bitch, a fact most scientists agreed was unpossible in the realms of physics. When she’s not yelling her emotions, she spends the majority of the movie looking bug eyed and confused. As if she was constantly contemplating the best way to fire her agent.
“Hi. We’re just gonna sit here until Rage Against The Machine makes a new album and decides to use us for cover art.”
Thankfully, Shyamalan possesses the delicate finesse to make all these elements work. His overarching message consists of near-subconscious subtlety, like when characters walk by a billboard with the words “YOU DESERVE THIS!” written on it in bold, or when a guy on TV yells “This is a warning!” at the end. Stuff like that. Oh, and at one point, Mark Wahlberg even whispers a heartfelt plea to a house plant. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.
There are too many amazing things in this movie to only give you a Best Line or a Best Part. So here are TEN of my favorite scenes from THE HAPPENING:
1) Al Qaeda AND lions? Well, now we’re f*cked.
2) Ugh, I hate it when Shyamalan pushes his own personal hot dog agenda.
3) Shyamalan: Can you act naturally in this scene?
Mark Wahlberg: What? Nooooo.
4) In addition to wildlife, Mark Wahlberg also talks to plants. (BONUS: Marky Mark gives off “Good Vibrations!”)
5) A montage of Zooey Deschanel being confused as to how to answer a phone.
6) Marky Mark plays 20 Questions with himself.
7) Thank goodness Crazy Plant Man is in this movie to blatantly explain what’s going on. Otherwise I wouldn’t know trees can communicate with bushes and grass. They’ve done tests, you know.
8) People are dying and our hero stops to discuss science. He also says, “Be scientific, douchebag!”
9) With his first R-rated movie, Shyamalan is finally free to curse and use all kinds of filthy exclamations. Like…”Cheese and crackers!”
10) OMG teh wind!!!11!! (If someone could CG some fake tornadoes in to this scene it’d make a great trailer for TWISTER II: DOROTHY’S REVENGE.)
ELF had more Zooey Deschanel nudity.
Play Along at Home!
Take a shot or drink every time:
- The word “happening” is said
- Zooey Deschanel looks bug eyed or confused
- Marky Mark talks science
Thanks to Everyone for reading and writing in over the last 50 weeks!
Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and give him an excuse to drink.