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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Drama > Fantasy > Monsters > Lady In The Water (HD-DVD/DVD Combo Format)

Lady In The Water (HD-DVD/DVD Combo Format)


Picture: B/B-     Sound: B/B-     Extras: C     Film: C-



When Disney was marketing The Sixth Sense, this included some advanced screenings when they were not certain how the film would perform.  I like Bruce Willis, but laughed the film off the screen (with the rest of the audience) a few weeks before it opened up to become a surprise blockbuster.  It also introduced the twist on a twist ending that has ruined most thrillers since.  Because of its success, it writer/director M. Night Shyamalan had a blank check to make any film he wanted at the studio.  This ended with Lady In The Water, a film Disney refused to make.  Warner picked up the film and Shyamalan had a new studio.


Unfortunately, they did not have a hit and the film was one of the big disappointments of Summer 2006, especially for Warner who already was concerned about Superman Returns (see the HD-DVD review elsewhere on this site) which was not the home run the studio hoped for.  That still made the Top Ten, while Water did much less, so what happened?


Paul Giamatti is the live-in janitor at an apartment building that has some amenities, like a swimming pool.  We see him go through his uneventful life and he is somewhat unhappy.  He has some quirky clients and residents, but that comes with the job.  Suddenly, something strange is happening at the pool.  The technician who checks the pool notices something is wrong with the chemical content all the sudden and Cleveland (Giamatti) also thinks there is something wrong.  One night he notices something or someone is in the pool.


It turns out to be a mysterious female figure (Bryce Dallas Howard) who becomes known as Story and has several to tell.  Cleveland is not so sure he believes her at first, then things get crazy and all hell breaks loose.


If only the film was consistently that interesting.  Instead, Shyamalan’s screenplay (based on his children’s book) is more interested in exploring the deconstruction of myth, fantasy and fairytale than actually telling a well-rounded story with any payoff or point.  It can be interesting at times, but when the mysterious “ugly” creatures show up, it is American Werewolf In London-lite at best.  The cast is very likable and good in their roles, including Jeffrey Wright, Bob Balaban, Mary Beth Hurt and Jared Harris, but it ultimately never takes off or coheres in any way.  Like The Village, Lady In The Water goes out of its way to promise the supernatural and unknown, only to chuck that (and its audience) away in the end.


The 1.85 X 1 image was shot by Christopher Doyle, H.K.S.C., who has shot many popular Asian imports and John Favro’s underrated Made.  No matter what anyone can say about Shyamalan’s films, they look better and more vivid than many films made today, even (except) when they use digital video.  Though slightly grainy throughout like the 35mm print I saw, the 1080p digital High Definition version is good if not great, while the anamorphically enhanced standard DVD side has problems with detail, Video Black and some detail issues.  Color is not gutted, but can be subdued.  The underwater footage is a plus.


Though the sound is here in Dolby TrueHD, this may be the thinnest such release to date, stretching out the often quiet 5.1 mix and lacking the matrixed EX channel in the Dolby Digital Plus EX 5.1 mix on the HD side and standard Dolby Digital EX 5.1 mix on the standard DVD side.  Some surrounds seem to be lost in the True HD, but the real test will be to try for TrueHD EX decoding when the format can be decoded through a receiver.


Extras include a gag reel, teaser & final theatrical trailer, auditions, extra scenes that are mixed, a brief piece called Lady In The Water: A Bedtime Story where Shyamalan reads from the original story and 6-part Reflections Of Lady In The Water that all add up to a more interesting experience than the film.  Note there is no audio commentary and some are in HD on the HD side.


In the end, this will become another curio or even cult film, but Lady In The Water ultimately another missed opportunity from a talented director getting carried away with some aspects over others in the genres he works through.  Let’s see where he goes next.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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