Lady in the Water (2006)
Reviewed on 2007 February 12
If you rent this expecting a good scary movie from M. Night Shyamalan, you’ll probably hate it. If you’re good with popping some popcorn and sitting down to a creative fairy tale, you’ll probably enjoy it.
Paul Giamatti plays Cleveland Heep, the super for The Cove Apartments, and you’ve never seen a screwier bunch of tenants. There’s a body builder who only works on one half of his body at a time. There’s Mrs. Choi (June Kyoto Lu), who’s suspicious of most people, probably because her daughter Young-Soon (Cindy Cheung) sneaks out to nightclubs. There’s Anna and Vick Ran (Sarita Choudhury and Shyamalan), a brother and sister team that bicker over laundry like it’s the Cuban Missile Crisis. And there’s a new tenant, Harry Farber (Bob Balaban), a prissy critic.
That would be enough to handle, but no, Cleveland also has to deal with a stowaway. He encounters a Narf named Story (I know, the name is like an elbow in the ribs), an aquatic being that needs help getting back to her land without getting destroyed by the predatory beings known as Scrunts. The Chois are familiar with Narfs and as Young-Soon pries more of their mythos out of her taciturn mother, Cleveland realizes that this is more than he can deal with. He’s going to have to recruit help from the other tenants.
Bryce Dallas Howard does a great job as Story, and it’s an entertaining fable. Giamatti is great as Heep as well. Some of the twists are out there, even for Shyamalan, and the self-referential humor is a little thick (but very dark and funny at one point). So many sub-texts were running through this that it really felt like a bedtime story made up on the spot and it was almost incoherent…and then it would knit itself back together. Now I wish he’d try writing a flat-out psychological horror movie.
Two chocolate morsels and a cup of chamomile tea.