Shyamalan is known for his own unique brand of suspenseful stories, dynamic characters and rich environments usually punctuated by a mind-bending twist of some kind. Many, including this author, felt he was well on his way to becoming a master storyteller in the mold of Alfred Hitchcock. While credit must be given for taking a shot at something a little different with Lady in the Water, it also needs mentioning that it doesn't reach the standards we've come to expect from Shyamalan. But let's just hope it's simply a low water mark in a long and illustrious career and not a permanent stain.
The title refers to a fairy-like woman, named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), who turns up in the swimming pool of an apartment complex run by superintendent Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti). Not at all curious as to how Story can live under water, but more interested in why she's here, Cleveland soon discovers, via an ancient Korean myth, that Story is actually some sort of sea-nymph called a Narf that has come from The Blue World in hopes of finding her way back... to the Blue World. And she needs Cleveland's help. But standing in their way is a ravenous hyena-like creature made of grass and roots called a Scrunt.
An interesting conglomeration of human characters, played by an assortment of talented actors is mostly wasted. Jeffrey Wright, Bob Balaban, Freddy Rodriguez, Jared Harris and others make up the bulk of the human side of the story, which actually worked quite well. Shyamalan himself plays one of the characters, as he does in most of his films, but this represents his most significant role to date. It's difficult to not be distracted by his presence here. That we see him in this film as M. Night Shyamalan, the film's director, and not as Vick Ran, a struggling writer whose book will change the world, speaks more to his acting ability than it does to our inability to suspend belief. Eastwood can do it, Shyamalan can't.
As the story burrows back into the fantasy world, the pace thickens to the consistency of cold molasses. Shyamalan's trademark environmental lusciousness is here (aided by cinematographer Christopher Doyle), but he seems too preoccupied with forced symbolism and quirky characters that just don't fit. Narfs, Scrunts, Tartutics, and Eatlons are too hard to pronounce and don't roll off the tongue quite like something from Tolkien, Lewis or even Rowling. I wanted an inspirational lift from the film or some sort of magical payoff but it never came.
Filmed almost entirely in sequence, there should have been a higher degree of cohesion and consistency of flow. But it wandered aimlessly through mystery, humor, poignancy and creepiness but stopped on none long enough to engage the viewer. Instead it was a battle of wills to see which could last longer the viewer or the movie.
Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, closed captioned.
Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access.
* Documentary - Reflections of Lady in the Water (34:45)
o Lady in the Water: A Bedtime Story (5:00)
o Auditions (2:02)
* Gag Reel (03:11)
* Deleted Scenes
* Trailers - Original theatrical trailer and teaser trailer
* Interactive DVD-Rom
Number of discs: - 1- Packaging: Single disc keepcase
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