M Night Shyamalan is in danger of throwing it all away. Having redefined the horror movie genre with THE SIXTH SENSE, he went on to deconstruct superheroes in UNBREAKABLE and then gave a low-key spin on alien invasions in SIGNS. All was well with the world and we were clearly in the company of a cinema visionary. Then came THE VILLAGE, a bizarre story of a fifteenth century community living and breathing in splendid isolation in the 21st century. Never saw that twist coming! Now here? his latest, LADY IN THE WATER and frankly?ell, M Night, you?e really going to have to do better than this. Quite a lot better.

This is what happens when directors read and believe the hype. After a string of box office smashes (even THE VILLAGE made money) he clearly felt he could do whatever he liked and could indulge himself with a real vanity project. Sadly his usual partners at Disney wouldn? touch this stinking fish with a bargepole and MNS turned to Warners to fund his latest flight of fantasy. They really shouldn? have bothered ?and I doubt they?l do it again.

On paper there? maybe a tolerable half-hour anthology episode here. Nervy, socially-inept building superintendent (Giamatti) finds a fantastic nymph creature (Howard) in the pool. He takes her in and tends to her but nasty wolfy monsters are out for her blood and he has to rally together the disparate inhabitants of his building to protect her. Unfortunately this vaguely-interesting storyline is entirely subsumed by its rather tedious subtexts ?the whole enterprise is an exercise in egotism with MNS using his story and his characters to rail against a movie industry which doesn? quite understand him, an industry which he seems to think wants to stifle him and his creativity. Once again Shyamalan casts himself in a lead role ?a struggling writer battling for inspiration who?awn?s Destined For Greatness.

It? not just the shallow transparency of the film which irritates; it? also the fact that, as a story (that? the name of the nymph, by the way?ust in case that subtext? too obscure for ya!) it? just not very interesting and not much fun to watch. Paul Giamatti, already established as one of the best American character actors of his generation, struggles manfully with weak material and keeps his reputation intact and MNS favourite Howard (daughter of Ron, fact fans!) is wispy and willowy as Story. But nothing much happens, there? no real sense of threat; the community is utterly isolated from the outside world so there? no sense that these people belong to any sort of society ?but hey, maybe that? another subtext. The rest of the characters are either rejects or outcasts or just plain mean ?it? not much fun being in their company, not even for the film? briefish 105 minute running time.

So it? crunch time now for M Night Shyamalan, for a while the most exciting new directorial talent in Hollywood. THE VILLAGE hinted at it, now LADY IN THE WATER confirms it. He? completely up himself. Time to come down into the light, M, and tell us a good story again. A proper one, with a twist if you like. Just stop foisting this self-obsessed, snidy drivel at your dwindling audience.

THE DISC: About an hour? worth of extras, including a decent-enough making of (just over 30 minutes), deleted scenes (noooo, not more!), gag reel (ha ha) and a few other bits. Not worth your effort or my time.


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