Lady in the Water
Time Out says
Breathtakingly ridiculous, M. Night Shyamalan’s latest pseudodeep stinker—a turd defiantly stuck in the shallow end—should convince even his core 13-year-old fans that he’s an emperor in dire need of a towel. The Sixth Sense long a fading ghost, the writer-director--Amex hawker continues to raid the same elements: A sullen, everyman hero hiding a damaged past (Giamatti’s building super, a stutterer and schmo) opens his ears to the wisdom of an eerie child (Howard, playing an elfin creature from an alternate realm who washes up with prophecies about America’s future) and thus becomes enlightened.
Pardon us if we’re not as easily agog. There’s a big difference between beguiling a modern audience into enchantment, as Spielberg did with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and dragging it there. Shyamalan makes his laziness clear with a stupefyingly pedantic intro, all crude stick-figure drawings and hushed narration (“But Man wouldn’t listen!”). The indignities visited upon the actors are even crueler, with Giamatti hitting a career low when asked, in one scene, to curl up on a couch wearing a milk mustache and plead for a bedtime story. Howard, for her part, spends an eternity in a shower stall while the building’s tenants arrive at their mystical roles: “guardian,” “healer,” “guild member.”
Such psychobabble would be lethal enough, but it’s also curdled by a bizarre defensiveness; one tenant is a gifted writer whose work, we’re told, will change the world. Shyamalan plays him. And his movie’s villain is a film critic. Poor millionaire artiste! (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — Joshua Rothkopf