Signs (1/10)

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley


First, a disclosure.  I was one of the few people who didn’t like The Sixth Sense.  I even saw it twice to give it a chance. 

 That said, I went to see Signs, also by Writer/Director M. Night Shyamalan of The Sixth Sense, with trepidation.  With justification; compared with Signs, The Sixth Sense is Casablanca and Citizen Kane rolled into one!

 Even though this is science fiction, this is a movie without a point or reason, although it struggles to make some sort of point about loss of faith.  The script is trite, and the acting worse, especially the children, Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin.  Shyamalan must have put out a casting call for children who mumbled their lines and who couldn’t be understood if your life depended on it.  If so, he got what he wanted.  There should be subtitles when these children speak.  In another part, Cherry Jones plays a cop.  She is just unbelievable.  I’m not using that word like you say, “wow, unbelievable!”   She’s unbelievable as a cop.  In fact, it looked to me as if she’d be unbelievable in any role, cop or no.  I kept picturing Frances McDormand in the role.  But that was wishful thinking.  Ms. McDormand wouldn’t waste her talents on tripe like this.  Being in this film would diminish almost anyone. 

 But the bad acting by Cherry and Culkin and Breslin is consistent with the quality of this film, which has no discernable raison d’etre.  When the movie ends, you say to yourself, “well, so what?”  It lacks anything that would involve the viewer.  It’s not scary, or frightening, or tense, or romantic, or anything else.  Oh, it’s got the occasional cheap shock, aided by music that reminds you to jump if what you see on the screen isn’t that moving, but these shocks are bromidic at best.

 When holes appear in the corn crop of Graham Hess (Mel Gibson), he and his brother, Merrill  (Joaquin Phoenix), a former minor league baseball player, somehow instinctively know how to defend their house and family.  Pretty amazing since they have no idea who is causing the holes, although they deduce it from television reports.

 Worse, Signs is maladroit.  When a flashlight is turned on in a darkened basement it’s like the sun rising!  This single flashlight has enough power to light up the City of Los Angeles.  I’m not giving anything away when I tell you that Shyamalan wants you to believe that extraterrestrials could conquer space, create the crop designs, come from light years away to earth, but can’t get in a basement with a door blocked by an ax. These are surely the dumbest extraterrestrials in the Universe.

 Shyamalan apparently wanted to mimic Orson Welles’ photography in Citizen Kane where the 25 year-old Welles pioneered ceiling shots and odd angles.  Shyamalan likes to shoot from the floor.  Suffice it to say that Shyamalan is no Welles.

 This movie is devoid of everything.  There’s nothing funny.  I saw nothing scary.  There’s nothing to deduce.  There’s no real plot, except survival.  There’s no lesson. It’s dark.  There’s a lot of wearisome talk. The one good thing about it is that it’s over in one hour and 47 minutes.  The bad thing is to think what a terrible waste it was of an hour and 47 minutes.

 But I’m being too kind.

The End