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M. Night Shyamalan
Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeffrey Wright, Bob Balaban, Sarita Choudhury, Cindy Cheung, M. Night Shyamalan, Freddy Rodríguez, Bill Irwin, Mary Beth Hurt
Writing Credits:
M. Night Shyamalan

Time is running out for a happy ending.

Apartment building superintendent Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) rescues what he thinks is a young woman from the pool he maintains. When he discovers that she is actually a character from a bedtime story who is trying to make the journey back to her home, he works with his tenants to protect his new friend from the creatures that are determined to keep her in our world.

Box Office:
$75 million.
Opening Weekend
$18.044 million on 3235 screens.
Domestic Gross
$42.272 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
French Dolby Digital 5.1 EX

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $28.98
Release Date: 12/19/2006

• “Lady in the Water: A Bedtime Story” Featurette
• “Reflections of Lady in the Water” Documentary
• Auditions
• Deleted Scenes
• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Lady In The Water (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 18, 2006)

Valid question: has director M. Night Shyamalan lost his touch? His first movie – 1999’s The Sixth Sense - remains easily his most successful, while 2002’s Signs also did quite well. 2000’s Unbreakable and 2004’s The Village fell somewhere in the Hollywood nether region. Neither smash hits nor bombs, they failed to show clear chinks in the director’s armor but they did nothing to embellish his reputation either.

This means that 2006’s Lady in the Water stands as Shyamalan’s first true flop. Of his first four movies, only 2000’s Unbreakable failed to cross the $100 million threshold, and with a gross of $94 million, at least it came close. Water, on the other hand, truly tanked. Given a prime summer release date, it found favor with neither moviegoers nor critics, and it made a very lackluster $42 million – a figure $52 million below Shyamalan’s second-lowest-grossing flick.

I wish I could claim that Water stands as an unfairly ignored and maligned winner, but unfortunately, it deserved its fate. Water opens with a prologue that tells of an ancient but forgotten connection between mankind and water dwellers. The latter try to rekindle these bonds when they send their young to approach the folks on the surface.

The film then introduces us to Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti), the sad-sack manager of a Philly-area apartment complex. Weird clogs start to occur in the compound’s pool, and Cleveland soon finds the source: a water nymph named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard). After he hurts himself in pursuit of her, she rescues him and they get to know each other.

When Cleveland asks her where she’s from and she responds “narf”, this sets off a slow path toward enlightenment. Cleveland discovers that this refers to a water nymph in an Asian legend. He pursues more details in this tale as he starts to believe in its reality. The movie follows Cleveland’s attempts to discover more as well as his work to fulfil the prophecy.

Water deviates from Shyamalan’s usual pattern in that it lacks the “big reveal”. Each of his first four flicks came with some major twist at some point, but Water plays things in a much more straight way. Sure, it gives us various attempts at intrigue, but it fails to throw out any form of massive shock.

I think that’s a good thing, as Shyamalan’s MO had already become predictable. However, I wish the director had come up with something more stimulating than Water to depart from his usual methods. The flick originated as a bedtime story for Shyamalan’s kids, and he finds it tough to both expand the tale and make it interesting for adults.

In terms of the former, I think Water boasts maybe half an hour of actual plot. Shyamalan takes the story’s thin framework and stretches it to its breaking point to make feature length. This means that the plot stalls badly as it goes. Not much happens for much of the film, and various attempts at intrigue fail to muster much to keep us involved.

The flick also features a rather messy and convoluted tale. All the goofiness like the “narfs” and the “scrunts” just makes matters absurd. Really, the movie provides a painfully simple plot mucked up by supernatural elements and silly terms.

Water seems simplistic, naïve and patronizing all at the same time. It starts with a prologue that throws out the issue about how man needs a savior and a magical path from war. Shyamalan makes his pretenses obvious right off the bat and these lend a condescending tone to the proceedings.

I think the various characters buy into the whole supernatural tale awfully quickly. Usually movies go down the other path, as people ignore all the signs, but here the participants get into fantasy without much information. Cleveland buys into matters without much evidence, and all the other residents go along ever more easily. If we found a few more skeptics, it’d make matters more palatable, but since the entire party gets into it so readily, it’s irrational. The extravagant, one-dimensional characters all exist to fit plot conceptions and little else.

At least Water features a nice performance from Giamatti. He adds weight and emotion to an otherwise flat character. The other actors try their best as well, but the thin personalities they need to inhabit give them little room to prosper.

Water becomes sporadically entertaining but it collapses under the stress of its goofiness. We find too many modern touches to feel like a classic fairy tale, and there’s not enough sparkle to make it memorable or magical. Silly and messy, I find it very hard to care about Story or her story.

Maybe the failure of Lady in the Water will mean that Shyamalan doesn’t have carte blanche for his next project, and that’d probably be a good thing. Total control doesn’t seem to agree with the filmmaker.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

Lady in the Water appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Watchable but erratic, this wasn’t a great transfer.

Sharpness varied but usually remained acceptable. At times, the picture seemed softer and fuzzier than I’d expect. These instances didn’t happen frequently, and they also didn’t appear major, but they popped up periodically and made the film seem less defined than normal. Neither jagged edges nor moiré effects caused concerns, but some light edge enhancement seemed present at times. As for print flaws, the movie was a little grainier than normal, but it otherwise seemed clean.

Colors looked a bit dense at times. Parts of the movie showed a nice balance, but on other occasions, I thought the tones came across as moderately thick and muddy. For the most part, the colors were accurate and distinct, but some of these concerns did occur. Black levels seemed nicely deep and solid, but shadow detail was somewhat erratic. Most low-light shots showed appropriate definition, but a few others looked a little too dark and opaque. In the end, most of Water looked positive, but the mix of small concerns knocked my grade down to a more average “B-“.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Lady in the Water seemed more positive, though it still wasn’t exceptional. It presented a soundfield that generally emphasized the forward channels, but it opened up very well at times. The mix showed good stereo music along with a clean and accurate atmosphere from the front. Much of the time, the movie featured simple environmental audio; the low-key nature of the story didn’t require much from the surrounds, though they demonstrated solid ambience during the outdoor shots. The rear speakers really added to the film whenever the scrunts became more active in the story. Those critters scampered all around the spectrum cleanly and effectively, and those elements helped make the movie creepier.

Audio quality was consistently positive. Dialogue always sounded natural and warm, and I noticed no issues related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects appeared lifelike and accurate, with no signs of distortion. Music appeared bright and lively, with good dynamics. Across the board, bass response sounded tight and deep. Ultimately, the soundtrack of Water worked well for the movie.

As we move to the extras, we start with Lady in the Water: A Bedtime Story. This four-minute and 57-second featurette highlights director M. Night Shyamalan as he discusses the tale he told to his kids and its adaptation into an actual book. He reads from the tome as we see illustrations created for it. I like this glimpse of the inspiration behind the movie, though it works better as a short kiddie story instead of as a full-length flick.

A six-part documentary, Reflections of Lady in the Water lasts 34 minutes, 37 seconds. It includes remarks from Shyamalan, associate producer Jose L. Rodriguez, producer Sam Mercer, creature designer Crash McCreery, 2nd unit director/storyboard artist Brick Mason, director of photography Christopher Doyle, production designer Martin Childs, production supervisor Jim Scaife, creature/makeup effects supervisor Mike Elizalde, spectral motion crew Mark Setrakian and Frederick Fraleigh, compositing supervisor Marshall Krasser, visual effects supervisor Edward Hirsh, digital artist Lana Lan, digital effects supervisor Kevin Barnhill, composer James Newton Howard, and actors Bryce Dallas Howard, Paul Giamatti, Bob Balaban, Sarita Choudhury, Cindy Cheung, Mary Beth Hurt, Jeffrey Wright, Noah Gray-Cabey, Bill Irwin, Grant Monohon, Joseph D. Reitman, Ethan Cohn, John Boyd, Jared Harris, and Freddy Rodriguez.

“Reflections” offers more information about the film’s genesis and writing as well as cast and characters, storyboards and the movie’s look, locations and sets, bringing the various creatures to life, editing, and the score. Though we get a decent overview from “Reflections”, it lacks true depth. There’s too much happy talk, especially when it comes to the praise that all ladle onto Shyamalan. Still, plenty of useful notes emerge, especially when we learn about the massive apartment complex set created for the movie; those elements offer the most interesting aspects of the piece. This is a sporadically compelling program.

Auditions fills two minutes, 11 seconds. We see tryouts for various supporting actors. Quite a few appear, so expect to see only a few moments from each. Most of them feature fake vomiting. We also find a three-minute and 15-second Gag Reel. Lots of goofs and giggles appear with little actual entertainment.

Six Deleted Scenes go a total of five minutes. The first two provide a little more early exposition with Cleveland and Story, while the third just shows a quick shot of the sprinklers as they turn on again. Scenes four, five and give us a bit extra with the supporting characters, including information about Story’s fate. The only interesting one provides a funny reference to “The Three Little Pigs”; the other five are pointless, dull or both.

The DVD opens with some ads. We find clips for We Are Marshall and The Nativity Story. The disc also includes the movie’s theatrical and teaser trailers.

Perhaps M. Night Shyamalan will return to his winning ways with his next project and Lady in the Water will be his 1941, an anomaly in an otherwise successful career. However, since it’s his second lackluster movie in a row, I can’t help but wonder if his best days are behind him. The DVD offers decent picture and audio along with a few useful extras. Water is a silly and forgettable film, and nothing about this average DVD elevates it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.8064 Stars Number of Votes: 31
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