Lady in the Water (2006) starring Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeffrey Wright, Bob Balaban, Sarita Choudhury, Cindy Cheung directed by M. Night Shyamalan Movie Review

Lady in the Water (2006)   2/52/52/52/52/5

Paul Giamatti as Cleveland Heep in Lady in the Water (2006)

Bit of a Heep

Stuttering apartment superintendent Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti - The Illusionist) is trying to work out who has been using the swimming pool late at night whilst welcoming new resident, film critic Harry Farber (Bob Balaban) to the building of diverse residents. Then one night when he hears some splashing he goes out to find a young woman in the pool who calls herself Story (Bryce Dallas Howard - The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) and mentions narfs and scrunts. Trying to discover what she is on about Cleveland learns that she is a character from an old bedtime story who is trying to make her way home. With the help of the residents Cleveland aims to help her return and protect her from the creatures which are trying to stop her.

I didn't like "Lady in the Water"; it absolutely bored me senseless and was a convoluted mess which struggled to flow. But I am not blaming writer and director M. Night Shyamalan solely for this and don't mind the fact he gave himself a more prominent role in the movie than he usually does. Why? Well you need to forget the movie for a moment and dig deep into its history.

Bryce Dallas Howard as Story in Lady in the Water (2006)

To start with the movie's plot comes from a bedtime story which M. Night Shyamalan wrote for his children and I can see how that would work. This story has a spiritual, mythical basis with imaginative creatures, amusing names, and quirky characters. It is the sort of story which when read to you by someone who can tell stories comes across as a wonderful fantasy which fuels your imagination and scares you a little bit. But the adaptation seems to be targeting adults and in doing so it loses the magic, not by becoming too serious as it still has humorous and fantasy moments but it is harder for adults to let go of reality and submerge themselves in their imagination. Most adults who cherish fantasy movies will have watched them as children but to take on a new one as an adult just doesn't work.

But the wrong audience is not the only problem because it is also M. Night Shyamalan himself or what we as an audience have come to expect. Shyamalan's best movies have had wonderful twists, they drop subtle clues and cause you to wonder how you missed things when all is revealed but this is a departure from that formula and is a straight fantasy story. It disappoints when it shouldn't because we shouldn't pigeon hole a director but we do.

There are two things which did work in "Lady in the Water" one is the casting with Paul Giamatti being amusingly quirky as Cleveland whilst Bryce Dallas Howard is mysterious and beautiful as Story. It is an eclectic collection of characters in the movie and the variety of actors make them all entertaining even though I still say the attempt to make this an adult fantasy doesn't come off. And the second thing is some good old fashioned horror, I am not on about how the lesser spotted grassy backed Scrunt looks but the moments of surprise which make you jump. I like Shyamalan's movies because he is a master of this simple but under used fright technique and he always gets it spot on.

What this all boils down to is that I didn't like "Lady in the Water" but I am sure that comes down to the simple problem that whilst adults enjoy fantasy movies, often they are ones enjoyed in childhood and then cherished into adulthood not embraced a new as adults.