I would first like to say that I am a huge M. Night Shyamalan fan. I didn't see Sixth Sense until it was on DVD and once I did, I was hooked. I've enjoyed each film he has directed since then, including the much maligned "The Village." I've been eagerly awaiting Lady in the Water ever since I heard about it. The teaser last winter made me even more curious and I couldn't wait for this movie with a sense of wonder. After finally viewing the movie, I have to say that M.Night has a major mess on his hands.
The movie is about an apartment maintenance man named Cleveland Heep whom seems to have a very dull life. He is good at what he does but you can't help but feel that he wants more. One night, when looking for people swimming after hours, he discovers a girl in the pool. Startled and clumsy, he falls into the pool and nearly drowns until he discovers himself back in bed with the girl in his house. She is a Narf from the Blue World who wants to return to her world and avoid the Scrunts (wolf like monster) as she tries to get back via the great eagle. She is to assist Cleveland in assembling a Guild to help her return. Little does Cleveland know that she is also there to help him overcome his grief of losing his family and quitting his job as a doctor. I have a good imagination and I was ready to see how all of this plays out. The child inside me was waiting for a payoff. I am sad to say, I never get it.
The movie is a complete, convoluted mess and a huge failure of execution. Let me begin with the characters. The supporting characters in the movie were annoying stereotypes of all kinds of ethnic backgrounds. The young Asian woman, who conveniently told the story of the Narf's by interpreting for her mother was incredibly annoying. It would seem like if the story needed more explanation, she conveniently shows up to tell us more, even being available while at a dance club. Then we have the guy who is only working out one side of his body. He serves no real purpose until the end and when he does, it is completely laughable and not worth the moment of "awe" as the movie makes it. Then we have the movie critic, who seems to be there to serve as M.Nights poke at critics at his past movies. M.Night is also playing a supporting role but because he is the director who makes clever appearances, I kept waiting for something magical to happen with his character and we don't get it. He needs to stick with Hitchcock like appearances.
The story itself unfolds slowly but when it should be getting more involving and interesting, it simply gets messier. You meet all of the characters in the film and you notice they have certain traits to their personality. Those traits are to be put to use in the Guild that Cleveland is trying to assemble. When it comes time to put it all together, you are waiting for something meaningful to happen and it just doesn't come together. Take the pool party scene. Has there been any scene in the past several years in movies as confusing and perplexing as this? They were there to protect the Lady yet stupid things happen. A girl drops her mirror who is to be watching for the Scrunt. The movie critic shows up and is given horrible dialogue. A band is to be playing inside but doesn't start on time. As a result of the confusion, the Lady is taken by the Scrunt and nearly killed. Then they realize the Guild is not correct and between a kid reading things in cereal boxes and his Dad finding clues in crosswords to shifting people and roles in Guild, I was simply confused because of the poor execution. We finally get one good scene when Cleveland has his catharsis and it was able to induce tears in audience members. But it simply comes back to the standard M.Night protagonist whom is trying to deal with personal tragedies. We saw this in Signs, The Village and again in this film. While that is a good thing to build a movie around, third time around is one too many. Finally, when things do play out as they should, we are scratching our heads and thinking "Are we too stupid to understand this film, or is the film too stupid to understand."
I've noticed many fan reviews of this film and many liked it but I do tend to think they are way to kind to allow M.Night to have a folly. Lady in the Water is his first folly and I hope he will recover and wow us with his next film.