Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

The Happening

The Happening
Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel and Betty Buckley

Rated: R for violent and disturbing images
Reviewed by: Chris  
Release date: June 13, 2008 Released by: Twentieth Century Fox

Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan's new thriller involves a phenomenon that has people stopping in their tracks and committing suicide, for no apparent reason.

It begins in New York's Central Park where people are jogging, walking their dogs or just sitting on a bench enjoying the day. Suddenly, they stop what they're doing, lose their ability to talk and kill themselves in a number of grisly ways, all without explanation.

The TV news says it could be a terrorist attack releasing deadly toxins, or a government experiment gone wrong, or a virus. All the so-called experts can do is warn to get out of town, as it spreads to Northeast cities.

Since each occurrence begins with a strong wind, gathering clouds and trees swaying, it could also be Mother Nature run amok. People evacuate by bus, car and train to get to suburban smaller towns, where they could be safe. But since no one knows what the cause of the deaths can be attributed to, or where it will strike next, it's difficult to outrun.

One of those people on the run is Mark Wahlberg who plays Elliot, a Philadelphia high school science teacher. He takes a train with his wife played by a strangely detached and miscast Zooey Deschanel. Her large eyes are emphasized because all she appears to do is vacantly stare. They also have a young girl with them, the daughter of a teacher friend.

Wahlberg is good as Shyamalan's "everyman," but with his science background, I was expecting to hear his theories on what was happening.

As always, some of the lesser characters are really strange. Like the lady they meet in the woods (Betty Buckley) who has lost her mind and an old man who drives Elliot and his family out of the city. His biggest concern is whether or not to pack hot dogs for the trip.

Since it's the director's first "R" rating, he uses it to add some graphic violence, which doesn't really add much to the suspense.

After a chilling opening involving a construction site, I had high hopes for this thriller, but unfortunately it was a bit of stormy weather from there on.

  Frank Chris Jim Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
The Happening  B+   C   D   B-   C-         C 

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