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PCR # 331  (Vol. 7, No. 30)  This edition is for the week of July 24--30, 2006.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Lady in the Water"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Three stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Warner Brothers     
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard and Bob Balaban
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 1 hour 50 mins

Let me be honest right at the beginning. As much as I loved "The Sixth Sense," I felt that the films' creator, writer/director M. Night Shyamalan, spent the next few years of his career basically making the same film. Throw in some comic books or aliens or villagers, add that much expected "surprise" ending, and laugh all the way to the bank. While I did enjoy his follow ups, "Unbreakable" and "Signs," I must also admit that I had "The Village" and it's twist figured out 15 minutes into the film. That is why I went to "Lady in the Water" with a pretty set notion of what I was going to see. And my surprise ending was that I had no idea!

Based on a bed-time tale Shyamalan tells his children, "Lady in the Water" is a complete departure from any of his previous films. The story: Cleveland Heep (Giamatti), the custodian of a Philadelphia area apartment complex discovers that the swimming pool is being used after hours. One night he hears a splash and races to the edge, ordering the occupant out. In his haste, he slips, hits his head and falls into the water. When he comes to, he finds he has been rescued by Story (Howard). She tells him that she is a "Narf," from the Blue World. She explains that she has been sent to reassure mankind of their existence. However, there are creatures, called Scrunts, that want to destroy her. She tells Cleveland that she feels the presence of the one who is to protect her in the complex. Slowly researching her story, Cleveland begins to learn more about Story, the other residents and, more importantly, himself.

Where Shyamalan has often just relied on a couple of "stars" to carry his films (Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Mel Gibson), here he has assembled an almost all-star cast of some of the greatest character actors working in film, including Bob Balaban, Jeffrey Wright and Bill Irwin. That these three actors have spent years honing their craft on stage and that skill helps the audience believe that THEY believe the tale they are being told. As for the leads, in three short years Paul Giamatti has gone from "that guy in that movie" to an Oscar-nominated leading man. He has been on my "actors I would pay to watch read the phone book" list for some time. Howard, daughter of actor/director Ron Howard, portrays a quiet innocence here which reminded me of Sissy Spacek in "Carrie." (at least before she snapped and killed everyone in sight). Credit also to Mary Beth Hurt and even director Shyamalan himself, for the fine work they do on screen. And the praise also extends to the story. Not Story's story, mind you, but the story behind it. Shyamalan has peppered the film with true characters. Whether it's the young man looking to be special by only working out one side of his body (he's proud that there is an almost five inch difference in his biceps) or the snooty, almost pretentious film critic who speaks in cliches, these characters are believable. That Shyamalan makes sure it's the critic that falls prey to the Scrunt is both funny and desired. At least this critic thought so.

A return to storytelling in the first order, "Lady in the Water" is highly recommended. On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "Lady in the Water"  Three stars

This week's movie review of "Lady in the Water" is ©2006 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2006, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.