The Happening is an awesome film that plays on our modern fears of terrorism, biological warfare and climate change. Unfortunately, that awesome film is buried deep inside most of the other parts of The Happening, which as a whole is meek, stupid and boring.
I think I figured out very quickly why this film leaves a sort of poop sandwich flavour in your mouth. Picture in your mind a large boardroom with an expensive Italian table (the kind suitable for sitting at while you tell Joss Whedon that he’s not the guy to write Wonder Woman); one end is host to a slowly decomposing horde of studio execs, sat at the other are Shyamalan and Wahlberg, listening closely to the terms and conditions associated with using the studio’s money:
“Listen, Marky Mark… Since your main character thinks science is cool, he needs to be a total douchebag.”
Some second-rate science journalism that’s kind of related to The Happening.
Warning: contains spoilery stuff.
Second warning: this video isn’t helping science to be cool either.
Right there, I suspect you can gauge just how much I’m not digging The Happening. Wahlberg’s delivery is wimpy and his dialogue is flaky – and I don’t mind Wahlberg on a good day (kick me in the groceries for this if you feel you need to, but I really dig The Big Hit). Zooey Deschanel and John Leguizamo are ineffectual thanks to more lacklustre writing. The supporting cast are filled out with lame caricatures, from the bumbling army private to the oddball horticulturist whose main defining attribute is a love of hot dogs. Basically, anything in this film involving the individuals stuck in the Happening is an ass in a hat because the words they have to say are far too often contrived, simplistic and downrght hokey.
That’s not to say that anything involving people shares the same unfortunate depiction. The effects of The Happening on the populace are chilling (barring some unfortunate moments where they seem to be a little too intricate for the nature of the threat), as are the way the mob reacts to this bizarre shift in the state of things. In fact, the main characters are at their best when scrambling – save the one scene where Walberg’s character finally loses it and still manages to come off as a softcock.
The parts of The Happening that establish the threat in the film, and the subsequent scenes that push the plot along and build layer upon layer of fear and hopelessness upon the survivors of ‘The Happening’ are brilliant pieces of filmmaking; the film would wrap those layers of desperation around us too, if only every other aspect of the story wasn’t watered down to the consistency of Hallmark channel drivel. If Shyamalan had spent more attention to delivering the misery and horror of the Happening and less on bogging us down in his clumsy character interactions we’d have been treated to a pants-wettingly good bio-thriller.
This movie cries out for a Phantom Edit treatment. If I had the time or inclination I’d do it myself, but hopefully some fanboy somewhere will read this and deliver me the goods I crave.
Until then, I guess I can console myself with something else called The Happening that isn’t nearly as disappointing.
Pixies – The Happening