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M. Night Shyamalan's gimmicks are in full, nauseating force in a disappointing 'Village'

I was not a big fan of The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable, but writer-director M. Night Shyamalan won me over with his alien movie, Signs. While the other films were gimmicky cheats in my mind, Signs was scary, impressive work, and I looked forward to the man's next opus.

After The Village, I'm going to have a tough time looking forward to anything this guy does in the future.

The problem with this movie is not that the big twists and endings are telegraphed and easily guessed. In actuality, I thought the final big twist that critics are slagging was sort of cool, even if it is, indeed, foreseeable. The problem with the film is that it's basically intolerable due to its maddeningly slow pace, its self-importance, its pretentious dialogue and its cartoonish performances. Every actor in this film is forced to speak with an affected dialect that would've had Shakespeare himself imploring those utilizing it to chill out and loosen up on the fancy speech pattern.

The village of the film's title appears to be some sort of early American settlement in which everybody eats corn on the cob and wears decidedly unfashionable clothing, including funny hats. A village elder, played by William Hurt as if a medium-sized basset hound had taken residence up his ass, constantly implores the village residents to beware of "those we do not speak of."

"Those we do not speak of" (of which they speak of an awful lot) are creatures that live in the forest, ritualistically killing livestock and taking occasional excursions into town to keep everybody on edge. Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix on Nyquil), the village's silent and sensitive type, asks the elders for permission to travel beyond the village barriers to "the towns." He seeks to procure medicines for the village weirdo (Oscar winner Adrien Brody), and shortly after his request, a creature attacks, and visitations intensify.

The Village isn't really the horror movie that the television campaign has been hawking. No, that would be too obvious for Shyamalan, who is trying to patent his own brand of screenwriter trickery and shenanigans. What Shyamalan is trying to do and say here might've been interesting had it been penned by somebody else. As it stands, his bag of tricks are quickly becoming old hat, and the way he makes his performers speak is insufferable. He writes as if he embarked upon a script after reading the original Pilgrim's Progress and ingesting an all-night marathon of Little House on the Prairie.

Adrien "I Piss on My Oscar" Brody takes a sorry role as the village idiot. It's a foregone conclusion that he will get to drool onscreen, and Brody doesn't disappoint. He drools, and he drools mightily. Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of Ron, works hard as Ivy Walker, a blind woman who falls in love with Lucius. As talented as she might be, her work is wasted by the inept dialogue she's forced to deliver.

The film was a big hit on its opening weekend, so I imagine there are many homes across America in which the words "Jesus Christ! I paid good money for that crap!" are a common household refrain. That money should've been thrown at Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, a good, funny movie that bombed horribly. I assure you, the stoned out characters in Harold and Kumar manage to speak more coherently and make far more sense than anybody in The Village. Whilst this is not something hard to accomplish, it is an accomplishment of bold and hearty intelligence of which I speak all the same. Damn, I've got Shyamalan Writer's Disease!

The Village
Rated NR

More by Bob Grimm

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