Classic Film Review: Lady in the Water (2006)

‘It’s all just bonkers . . . in the best possible way’

Lady in the Water, 2006

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Bob Balaban, Jeffrey Wright, Sarita Choudhury, Freddy Rodriguez, Bill Irwin, Jared Harris, M. Night Shyamalan

 

Here’s an actual quote from the film describing its lore:

‘There is a reason the rules might be broken: a thousand Narfs is about a rare Narf who comes once in a generation of a Narf, who is called the Madame Narf. Her vessel is important, its vessel will cause change, but it is the Madame Narf herself that is truly the key. She’s considered a queen to her people; her return would be seen as a great inspiration. A Scrunt will do anything to kill a Madame Narf, even forget his fear of the Tartutic.’

That is just a drop in the ocean of how bizarre this film actually is.

After Story (Bryce Dallas Howard, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) saves Cleveland’s (Paul Giamatti) life he is opened up to her world, that of a Narf from the Blue World who has come to open up inspiration in a man who changes the world but at great risk to their own life. After initially believing Cleveland to be the man, they begin searching the resort where Cleveland works for a writer, with the latter half of the film needing a Guild, a Healer, a Guardian and a Symbolist in order to help Story be taken away by a giant eagle thing. There’s also a wild Scrunt lurking around the premises, waiting to attack Story. Add to that the ridiculous arrogance of M. Night Shyamalan, the film’s writer, to include his character as a writer whose story will inspire someone to one day rule the country and a father who can read signs of the universe through a crossword and his son who can do likewise with cereal boxes (I’m not making this up) and a critic who hates films and sees everything in his life, even a moment when confronted by a scary-looking Scrunt, as a play (I’m guessing his life motto is ‘All’s the world’s a stage’) that will pan out in a extremely specific way. There’s also a tenant who only exercises one side of his body and a pair of Asian women who tell Cleveland parts of the story throughout the film (but the final part of the story is only revealed if Cleveland acts like a child. Paul Giamatti is an Academy Award nominated actor who, in this scene, is sat sideways on couch with his hands between his legs and milk on his mouth acting like a helpless child.

Lady in the Water, 2

There’s a lot of craziness to this film. And I’m not entirely sure if I love it or hate it. It’s apparently a bed-time story M. Night Shyamalan told his children, but even Disney didn’t understand what he was on about when explaining it to them, and who can blame them? Narfs, Scrunts and Tartutics with giant eagles and Guilds and Symbolists and Healers and Guardians . . . it’s all just bonkers . . . in the best possible way.

The acting is fine, the camera angles are shoddy (the first scene where we’re introduced to Young-Soon Choi (Cindy Cheung) it doesn’t even show us her face despite her being a main character) but there’s a kid reading signs of the future through cereal boxes. Also, she spends next to no time in the water; so why is called Lady in the Water? And as bad as this film is (and in terms of it being an actual film it’s bad) . . . it’s hilarious.

 

Personal: * * *     Acting: * *     Writing: * *     Presentation: *

Overall Rating: * *

 

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