Lowdown: A confused modern day fairy tale.
M. Night Shyamalan has surprised us all with Sixth Sense, but since then all of his films follow the same formula: a slow gathering of facts throughout the film, and then a climax that takes these facts and puts a twist on them. I, for one, grew tired of this formula; to be honest I never did like Sixth Sense to begin with. With Lady in the Water it becomes obvious that Mr Night simply doesn't know when to stop.
This time the story takes place inside an apartment complex in Philadelphia managed by one of my favorite contemporary actors, Paul Giamatti. Through his eyes we meet the various characters living in the place, ranging from a famous art critic to other rather loony figures. Things change when, one night, he finds someone swimming in the swimming pool - a rather mysterious girl called Story. He quickly finds that this girl is being stalked by this wolf like monster made of grass.
Quick is the word here: Through the residents he quickly finds that the girl comes from this fairy tale world. She came to this world to meet a writer (portrayed by M Night himself) that will have a major effect on the future of humanity, and then she needs to go back to her fairy tale world using fairy tale means and under some very fairly tale like circumstances. Together with the rest of the residents, who unite for this purpose, Giamatti sets out on his fairy tale quest.
The film has this driving force on you, making you interested to know what is going to happen. However, as it progresses, you realize there is nothing more to the film that draws you into it other than the curiosity concerning what is going to happen; and worse, as those things happen, you will probably find yourself quite disappointed.
Credibility is a major problem with the film. Sure, it's a fairy tale, but that's not the reason why; the reason is to do with the fact that everyone in the film, all of which takes place in a very believable setup of an apartment complex, accepts the fairy as a fairy - no questions asked - and immediately acts accordingly. You can say that this is on purpose, you can argue that this is a part of the director's message, and you can also say that our religions are not based on much more than that; but I will say that these arguments still do not change the fact the film suffers in the credibility department.
I would say the biggest problem of the film is that it's unfocused. It's the director's attempt to aim at multiple targets at the same time that make it a failure: On one hand, it's a fairy tale story; on the other there are some horror elements, mostly of the make you jump type that I just hate so much. Then there is this element of using the story to sort of look for meaning in life, and then there is this element where the director makes a statement about his creation and about what he thinks about the critics who say bad things about his films - things along the lines of them being predictable. It all becomes convoluted, a meaningless mishmash; the film's ending feels like it was glued to the end of the real film.
Best scene: Giamatti researches Story's background through a older Chinese woman, aided by her daughter who acts as a translator. Not that the scene is that good, it's just that it's better than the rest of the film - it's somewhat funny.
Picture quality: Too much noise and severe lack of detail on the dark scenes hamper this DVD.
Sound quality: Too anchored to the front channels; surround are on mostly during the "make you jump" scenes, in which overall volume levels jump up by several dozens of decibels in one millisecond.
Overall: A disappointing waste of time. 1 star.