Sunday night was filled with writer’s block and the frustrating abyss of waiting for investors to lock on to the fact that 11 Colonels ATTACK! needs to get cracking soon in order to capitalize on all the brilliant folks who want to make it, so I tracked down fellow CHUD Podcaster [expect a new one on a week from tomorrow] Justin Waddell and we caught the 10:45pm Sunday night screening of The Lady in the Water.
I expected to be treated to the easy target I wanted and somehow I found myself slowly starting to like the movie. In a weird way. I mean, it’s ludicrous with its scrunts and narfs and Heeps and characters that are like these weird NPC’s who were rolled for like wandering monsters with a 20-sided dice. Weird rules and bizarre fairy tales and characters who the lead character has to revisit after gathering more items. It’s like M. Night Shyamalan and Gary Gygax fused together to create a weird living D&D module set in modern times. Heck, Paul Giamatti’s character had to do a saving throw against stuttering throughout the film, a roll made easier by Bryce Dallas Howard’s +5 ray of stutter banishment. That’s not nerd bullshit either. It was 1982. I was ten. It was either D&D or hacking rednecks to little pieces. I chose D&D.
Anyhow. The movie was kind of fun despite and because of its wacky little universe of intentionally one-dimensional characters. I guess if I had eaten some popcorn [which makes me ill] I may have just hated on the flick but it was a fun experience. It’s better than The Village, that’s for sure. But the thing I was surprised about, the most eye-opening thing was how much I disagree with the people who have lambasted M. Night for not only his decision to act in the film but for his performance.
He’s terrific. He has a real charisma and warmth onscreen that I think no one gives him credit for. Scarily enough, I almost liked him more than my beloved Paul Giamatti because M. Night the writer unloaded on his star that most unkind quirk that rarely works onscreen: The Stutter. I think Brad Dourif’s the last person who pulled it off well and that was in the 1970’s. Without the stutter, Giamatti does fine, though he’s saddled with the lion’s share of Narf-tastic dialogue. Shyamalan’s very natural onscreen, showing little playful bits of humor and a real soul in his role as a writer whose work will garner the most harsh criticism of all. I really like him as an actor, and I guess he’s had his share of chances as he’s the star of every one of his childhood films he’s included on his DVD releases.
So, while I know that The Lady in the Water is a guilty pleasure and a total cocktease in how much of Bryce Dallas Howard is just outside the frame for half the film, it gave me a realization: I want to see more of this guy. Call it his ego writing checks his talent can’t cash if you will, but I endorse his decision. There’s a lot of good directors who also act in their films. Doesn’t bother me a bit. In fact, if M. Night’s films get smaller and smaller as the box office reciepts do, I’d suggest he cut costs by starring in the damn things. As much as I think he has gleaned the best performance of Bruce Willis’ career (Unbreakable) and one of Mel Gibson’s best (Signs), I’m all for him doing it himself. He’s a good looking guy. He’s a talented guy. I don’t see the problem.
Unless he’s serious about casting Kevin Costner. I want Costner to be huge again, but that selfish motive aside, I say bring on ol’ M. Night.