M Night Shabadabadoo is the George W Bush of movie directors. Remember in 2001, Bush’s ratings were sky-high, up in the 90th percentile? Then began a steady decline, as everybody learned what smart people (like me and everyone I know) already knew: that he was a disaster at everything he ever attempted. M Night (I wonder what his friends call him?) began in the stratosphere, with The Sixth Sense, a brilliant, genuinely startling movie. People were talking Polanski, or maybe even Hitchcock. Then he made an okay movie (Unbreakable), then a stupid movie (Signs, which was nevertheless a big hit, so those of you who liked it and spent your money on it are responsible for M getting the funding for future crap, and aren’t you sorry now?), then a damn awful movie (The Village), then a movie reviewed so badly I didn’t even bother to see it (The Lady in the Water), and then this … abomination. From the heavens to the toilet, just like W. (Say, M is W upside down …) Only difference is that M deserved his initial adulation, and W did not.
I wouldn’t have seen this one, either, except that I’d recently seen Speed Racer because one lonely critic liked it. (He was only part right; it is visually stunning and worth seeing, but sucks in most respects.) In this case it was Roger Ebert, who said he liked the development, the fact that we don’t see any screaming crowds in this disaster film, just small groups of people trying to survive. Well, I should have known better. Usually, when Roger is a minority of one, he’s wrong. This time, he was at least partly right, but it was such a small part that I can’t forgive him. M is very good at setting the scene, at giving us some bits of business that work. Here, groups of people are suddenly coming to a halt, then walking backwards, and then calmly killing themselves, sometimes in bizarre ways. This is eerie. But even this loses its power when we begin to discover the so-called “reason” this is all Happening. (And is that a lame title, or what?) The hero figures things out, stupid as these “things” are, quite handily and with no evidence whatsoever. There’s no need to go on. The movie becomes so dumb on so many levels that there’s no point in discussing them. If you make the mistake of watching this turkey your only possible amusement will be counting the idiot plot points. I can find only one good thing to say about this movie: It’s only 91 minutes long, and at least 7 of those are end credits. Would that it had been shorter.