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Lady in the Water (***)
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Written by M. Night Shyamalan
Lady in the Water
Principal Cast
Paul Giamatti -- Cleveland Heep
Bryce Dallas Howard -- Story
Jeffrey Wright -- Mr. Dury
Bob Balaban -- Mr. Farber
Sarita Choudhury -- Anna Ran
Cindy Cheung -- Young Soon
M. Night Shyamalan -- Vick
Freddy Rodríguez -- Reggie
Bill Irwin -- Mr. Leeds
Mary Beth Hurt -- Mrs. Bell
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

Warning: this film does not have a surprise ending.

Samuel R. Delany has written that enjoyment of art depends on the tension between the expected and the unexpected. Too much of the expected, we yawn. Too much of the unexpected, and we become confused. A lot of people evidently were confused by this highly enjoyable, completely original film. America is not ready for an urban fairy tale. I predict it will do well overseas and on DVD.

The tension between the expected and the unexpected comes in for a lot of explicit and implicit commentary in the course of the film. One of the characters is a film critic, and when he expects real people to act like people in a film, bad things happen. In other words, M. Night is making self-referential comments on just how much originality audiences will accept.

This is the most original movie of the year, which isn't saying much in a year of sequels and threequels. The modern urban fairy tale has been done in prose, but I don't remember an earlier example in film. (Readers can remind me of obvious examples I've forgotten in the Film forum at

Lady in the Water has charming characters, entertaining action and dialogue, a fantasy plot that is closer to Little Red Riding Hood than to The Lord of the Rings, and Bob Dylan music. The only real fault is the same one as in M. Night's earlier film about crop circles, Signs. As soon as we see the creatures, they are obviously men in rubber suits. Fortunately, here we see them for less than a minute.

It is interesting that Lady in the Water is widely called a failure, with "only" $25 million at the box office, while Clerks II, with $14 million, is a smash hit. The fact that Lady cost fifteen times as much to make as Clerks II might have something to do with that.

There are no credit cookies, but I enjoyed the final music and the dedication at the end.

Copyright © 2006 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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