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2004, dir. M. Night Shyalaman
108 min. Rated PG-13
Starring: William Hurt, Brendan Gleeson, TAFKA Leaf Phoenix, Clint Howard's niece, Lt. Ellen Ripley.

Review by Noel Wood

It was not my choice to see THE VILLAGE this weekend. Personally, I was far more excited about the comedy HAROLD AND KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE (It was apparently a big weekend for East Indians in Hollywood,) but I was outvoted. I actually had little to no interest at all in seeing THE VILLAGE, as I find the other M. Night Shyamalamadingdong films I've previously seen to be rather overrated, but I thought things looked promising when early reports were indicating that this was looking to be in the running for worst film of the year. I really enjoy seeing artistic collapses along the lines of THE MATRIX: RELOADED and I truly hoped that this would be one of those.

So I guess in a way, THE VILLAGE was there to doubly disappoint me: one for not quite living up to that level of suckitude, and the other for utterly boring me for an hour and a half. As I had gathered from seeing two of Mr. Last-Name-of-Which-I-Will-Either-Have-to-Paste-or-Parody-Every-Time's previous films UNBREAKABLE and THE SIXTH SENSE, I knew that the appeal for most everyone in the theater was going to be the "twist" at the end. I had at this point not yet seen SIGNS, but I still knew that the twisty ending thing was going to be the money shot here. Mr. Shyamtheshamandthepharoahs knows this as well, because he really let the stuff leading up to the big finale fester like a sore.

In other words, don't go in to THE VILLAGE expecting some exciting horror story. It's a dramatic love story between a quiet and brave boy played by that little dude who masturbated in PARENTHOOD and the daughter of that same movie's director. The problem is that it's a really slow love story, and its participants have less chemistry than a Liberal Arts Major's semester course load. There is also a retard involved in this Bizarre Love Triangle, which surely adds a few points for the critics out there who love that sort of thing, and he intervenes to actually make the love story more interesting by stabbing our boy Joaquin.

So, you see, this is where all that thinly laid plot comes in to play. Lucius, the recent recipient of involuntary body piercing, had been planning on leaving the Village to go into towns beyond the woods and pick up some medicine. The elders have forbidden anyone from traveling through the woods, as part of a longstanding agreement with Those We Do Not Speak Of, who live in the woods and skin animals and paint red marks on the doors. But when Lucius is laying on his deathbed, his girl Ivy decides she's going to be brave and do the town-traveling thing, despite the fears of the townsfolk. Oh yeah, just because the plot wouldn't be nearly contrived enough without such a thing going for it, Ivy just so happens to be blind.

But meanwhile, the 'elders' in the ensemble cast (including William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Brendan Gleeson, and Cherry Jones) make like they're acting out a student-directed high school play. These are capable actors, too. They speak in the dialect of the late nineteenth century, and whether or not they intend for it so sound crappy due to That I Can Not Speak Of is a moot point, because crappy dialogue contributes to a crappy movie no matter how you slice it. Oh, and Adrien Brody must be Oscar-trolling again, because there's no other reason that such a talented actor would be putting in such a ridiculous caricature of a retard.

Now, the real shining star in this whole mess is allegedly Bryce Dallas Howard, the aformentioned daughter of Little Opie Cunningham. Note the use of the word allegedly, because I'm basing this off of the words of other people who apparently watched a different performance than I did. Sure, I guess she had her moments of mediocrity and everything, and she acts scared pretty well and all, but I only ask one thing of an actor who is portraying someone visually impaired: act goddamn blind. Quit making eye contact when you talk to people, for starters. Honestly, up until they mention that she is "without sight", I wondered what the deal was with her character and why she carried a cane everywhere. Oh, sure, "maybe she's just legally blind" you say. Nope. She had to feel her way around in broad daylight. She apparently sees "colors", but I think that's supposed to be something to do with "aura" because she loses her sight of Lucius's "color" when he's clinging to life.

So these people ramble on and on and on and on for the first hour and a half of the film until the first part of the big secret is revealed. And it's boring as hell. There is no real character development, there are no intriguing moments, there's just this dull, ponderous lead balloon of a script that's less exciting than Bob Dole's Presidential campaign was. By the time I got to the super-big-reveal That I Can Not Speak Of, I threw my arms up in the air and uttered an expletive. It's transparent and predictable if you're looking for it, but it still doesn't change the fact that it's Absoludicrous™ if you think about it for more than five seconds. Sadly, though, it's still the most interesting part of the movie because it actually makes you go back and think of a few things you saw earlier.

But this whole film is reliant on the ending. It's not like THE SIXTH SENSE, which is actually pretty intriguing the whole way through up until M. Night Shyampagnesupernova insults you by showing all of of the hints that lead to the twisty thing at the end. It's not like UNBREAKABLE, which tries really hard to create a character study before we find out what the motives involved are. And it's not like SIGNS, which I was compelled to go back and watch the next night, which deeply studies emotion and desperation before we find out the mysterious advice of the dead wife. Without the ending, this is a crappy horror flick that Troma wouldn't even touch except worse because it's not really a horror flick at all. And sadly, I can't really even tell you all of the reasons why it sucks, lest I reveal too many of the super-secret surprise plot points that the studio made critics (professional ones, not me, but I'm trying to show my delusions of grandeur here) stay silent on because they knew if the cat got out of the bag nobody would go see this stinker.

Oh, and as a side note, where did M. Night Shyamiel-schlimazel-hasenpfeffer-incorporated get the clout to put his name in the promotional title of every one of his films lately? I guess it comes with the territory of being a poor-man's Steven King, but c'mon, guy. Get over yourself.

The movie itself kind of reminds me of the big-headed kid in SO I MARRIED AN AXE MURDERER: It's like an orange on a toothpick! This huge revelation of an ending is being balanced on a wafer-thin script and the whole thing just can't support the weight of it in the long run.


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