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M. Night Shyamalan writes and directs this self-proclaimed, grown-up "bedtime story" about an apartment building superintendent named Cleveland (Paul Giamatti) who discovers a magical sea-nymph named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) who's been transported to this world and is living in the building's own swimming pool. As this bizarre revelation sinks in, Cleveland becomes enraptured by her other-worldly charm. As he shelters her in his apartment, other inhabitants of the building begin falling into place as representations of ...

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Sep 24, 2009

Consider Something Even More Amazing

I didn't have high expectations of this movie because Shyamalan ruined 'Signs' so badly (I was expecting something like "Contact"), I didn't think he could be trusted again. However, I found myself strangely drawn into this film. I think part of the reason is that he seems to have adapted a good amount from, "The Neverending Story" (1984) which I loved as a child. The wolf (known as a "scrunt") in the movie bears more than a passing resemblance to Gmork and our lead female, "Story" behaves not unlike the Childlike Empress. Even the cover art of this DVD reminds me of The Neverending Story.

Anyway, Story is a mythological character from a bedtime story that comes to life from the pool of an apartment building into the arms of superintendent, Cleeveland Heep (Giamatti). It's no accident that this young and beautiful "narf" (played by the lovely Bryce Dallas Howard of "Spider-man 3" and "The Village" fame) is completely naked throughout the movie but for a shirt she borrows from Heep. Shyamalan probably wanted us to fall in love with her as both kids and adults did with the Childlike Empress and Atreju (in The Neverending Story). The sexual innuendos could not be more obvious. Adolescent boys are going to be having "special feelings" about Story for a long time.

Shyamalan himself plays one of the central characters and looks more boyish than usual. Maybe he wants to become more of an actor now. The movie still has some surprises, though. The action picks up toward the end in a way that tries to evoke strong emotions from the audience. I remember this was attempted in Signs too. There even seems to be an underlying message that childlike innocence and imagination are the keys to solving the world's problems. We've probably heard something like that before. While I somewhat enjoyed this movie and the feeling of nostalgia it briefly gave me, I couldn't help but feel sorry for anyone who actually needs to believe in fairy tales like this to feel special.

If you really want to be fascinated and thrilled beyond the confines of your mundane life, consider the origin of humanity. Think of how we evolved from incredibly simple and lifeless beginnings against astronomical odds to inhabit a tiny rock in the vast and infinite emptiness of the universe. Think of how in your own living room there are probably an infinite number of alternate dimensions with another you. Imagine all the stories we have ever told and will ever tell and how like in Borge's Library of Babel, they are actually somewhere out there, just waiting for us to dream them up. Fairy tales like Shyamalan's simply pale in comparison with reality. Now that's the most amazing story.

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