Review: 'The Happening' doesn't quite deliver

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"The Happening" is, unfortunately, a suspense movie that never quite happens the way you want. It has its moments, and the potential for greatness is there, but all the pieces never really come together. M. Night Shyamalan ("The Sixth Sense," "Signs") wrote, directed and produced "The Happening," his first R-rated film.

The plot is very basic. Something deadly has started happening in the parks of the northeast U.S., beginning in Central Park. People first become disoriented, then begin speaking incoherently, and then they kill themselves. Mark Wahlberg plays a Pittsburgh area science teacher, who leaves the city with his wife (Zooey Deschanel), best friend (John Leguizamo) and best friend's daughter once things start. As the train departs, they learn Pittsburgh has been affected, as well as Boston. Over time, smaller and smaller areas fall to the mysterious happening. The suspense builds as they try to get out of the northeast, where the happening has been contained.

Mark Wahlberg is the star of the film, and that's not necessarily a good thing. His acting in "The Happening" is not nearly strong enough to hold the film together. Many of his lines come across awkward, as if he isn't really sure how to deliver them. Zooey Deschanel is also not on her best game, which is disappointing, as she usually is much better. A big part of the problem with the acting could easily be the fault of the script, which seemed to try too hard to be suspenseful, funny and deep all at once.

M. Night Shyamalan started out his career with a bang, scaring us all with "The Sixth Sense" and "Signs." However, "The Happening" has more in common with his last few flops, like "The Village" and "Lady in the Water." Like those films, "The Happening" starts out good, has potential to be great, but everything gets lost along the way, leaving you disappointed at the end.

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