D-

Wide release

Im all out of theories.

For a while, I liked to think of M. Night Shyamalan as a uniquely skilled director stuck, Siamese-twin -like, with a terrible writer. Unbreakable and Signs are dopey but beautifully helmed, and The Village might be the most exquisitely crafted stupid movie ever made. But theres no excuse for the bungled compositions of The Happening , a film whose only redeeming value is that its awe-striking awfulness inspired SNLs Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals sketch, and lets just never mention Lady in the Water ever again, mmmkay?

I cant even tell you what The Last Airbender is about. Based on an allegedly popular Nickelodeon cartoonwhich Ive never seen because I am a grown man the movie already had me baffled during the opening Star Wars -like expository crawl. Theres something about nations named after stuff like fire and wind, and some bald kid who cant act gets thawed out from a block of ice alongside Falcor from The Neverending Story . Were repeatedly told, in flat deadening text, that he is the Avatar who can bend all four elements and save the world, but he just seems like an annoying little turd.

Unfortunately, our Avatar dropped out of monk school, so he needs to do a lot of Tai Chi in slow motion to catch up on his homework if the universe wants to be rescued. Meanwhile, the dreaded Fire Nation is out to capture or kill this whiny pipsqueak, and, for my money, the years most riotous miscasting comes from enlisting Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi to play a dastardly villain.

Working on his first blockbuster gig-for-hire, Shyamalans authorial signature shines through in the films commitment to solemn humorlessness and a stubborn decision to shoot entire action sequences in cramped single takes.

I avoided the controversial (and reportedly unwatchable) 3-D transfer, but was still shocked at what a drab, ugly film this is, even without the dimming effect of those damn glasses. How many more chances are we going to give this guy?

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