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Movie Reviews
by Jonathan McKee and Todd Pearage

Happening, The (10/7/08)

Rated R for violent and disturbing images.

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan (Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village and Lady in the Water)

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Ashlyn Sanchez, and Betty Buckley


Jonathan's Rating: Rental

Todd's Rating: Rental

M. Night Shyamalan fans will enjoy it… simply because it’s from M. Night. But most audiences will probably be disappointed.

The Happening begins without warning. First there is confusion, everyone stops moving…a few begin to walk backwards, and then the unthinkable…everyone begins to kill themselves. Episodes of these strange and chilling deaths erupt all over the north eastern United Sates. For Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg), a Philadelphia high school science teacher, escaping and understanding the mysterious and deadly phenomenon is top priority. Though he and his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel) are in the midst of a marital crisis, they hit the road with friend Julian (John Leguizamo) and his 8 year-old daughter Jess. It soon becomes clear that no one can outrun this terrifying, invisible killer.

Todd’s Word: I loved it, but I like Unbreakable, The Village and Lady in the Water, I think most people will skip it…so I’ll meet you in the middle and give it a “Rental.”

Jonathan’s Word: I’m a big M. Night fan, and I enjoyed this film… but let’s be honest… this is no “Signs” (M. Night’s best film, by far.)

Todd’s Word: Funny… because I was gonna say, “This is not the Sixth Sense,” his best film, by far.

Jonathan’s Word: I liked Sixth Sense. It was definitely good. Probably his SECOND best film!

Todd’s Word: And I agree… Signs was great. It was probably his SECOND best film!

But as for The Happening, there are no dead people, no creepy little kids and no twist ending, so stop expecting them. What this is is a very unsettling movie about a mysterious “attack” that flips the switch on our instinct for self preservation.

Jonathan’s Word: I think the most upsetting part about this film is the lack of a twist ending. I know, I know… Signs didn’t really have a big twist either (but it was still his best). But M. Night is almost known for his twists. The Happening didn’t have the strong characters that Signs did, OR a twist ending. It was only through his creative dialogue and unique “Hitchcockian feel” that I even liked this film.

Todd’s Word: M. Night Shyamalan is one of my favorite directors and once again his direction in this film is amazing. The camera movements and pacing are as creepy as the story itself, and the story is what M. Night is all about.

That being said, Mark Wahlberg is strong and believable as a confused high school science teacher who is trying to figure out what is happening. Like Signs, the answers are there and pop up in some pretty unsuspecting ways. And like all his other films it does leave you with a “What in the world was that?” feeling.

All in all The Happening is an hour and a half filled with flinches, jumps and an unsettling feeling that still hasn’t completely gone away.

Jonathan’s Word: You said it well. I couldn’t even verbalize why I liked it. But I did.

I will say this. The whole “M. Night’s first R-rated movie” marketing scheme was a laugh. I don’t know if you caught that. But all the previews really made a big deal of the rating, using it as a draw. Funny thing is… they must have had to really work hard to get the R rating. This film was CLEAN! There was barely any language, no sexuality of any kind… and the gore wasn’t even that bad. I think they worked hard to make a couple “intense” and graphic scenes to try to earn the R. Sort of ridiculous.


SHOULD KIDS SEE IT?
Todd’s Word:
Not this one. The “scare” is enough for me to keep this one away from my 10 and 7 year olds but the violence in this one makes me think we should keep younger teens away too.

Jonathan’s Word: I wouldn’t hesitate letting my junior high or high school kids see it. It’s not dirty in any way. Just a little intense for younger kids, and with two scenes that are “slightly” bloody and violent. Trust me, there is FAR worse stuff on TV.


Conversation Starter
Three Simple Questions (with Answers You May Be Looking for):

  1. What are some of the messages or themes you observed in this movie?


  2. How do you suppose we—as serious Christ-followers—should react to this movie?


  3. How can we move from healthy, Bible-based opinions about this movie to actually living out those opinions?




Jonathan McKee Jonathan McKee, president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over a dozen books including the new Get Your Teenager Talking, The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the 10-Minute Talks series. Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.



Todd Pearage Todd Pearage is a movie buff at heart, but he's not your traditional film critic. Todd is a blue collar film geek, from his job years ago at Blockbuster to his heartfelt online movie reviews. But Todd isn't just a film geek. He has worked with middle and high school students since 1991 as a youth pastor and is currently on staff at Calvary Church in Souderton, PA. Todd and his wife Lynda have three children, Brianna, Caleb and Addyson.



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