Perhaps if he had given his fantasy world more legs—like a flashback to humanity’s interaction with narfs that isn’t drawn in stick figures—we could develop an attachment to their world and, thus, their emissary. But he provides only the barest outline of Story’s background, so the crusade to get her back to her realm seems less like the fate of the world depends on it and more like a way to waste a few hours while living in a boring apartment building. A certain kind of viewer might find this brand of patched-together magical realism charming, but most are likely to experience it as a slightly scarier, elevated version of Fraggle Rock.
However, if the natives of the blue world come off a bit uninspired, Shyamalan’s earthly realm is populated with exactly the kind of imaginative, surprising creations Story and the scrunt should have been. One tenant works out only the right side of his body as a kind of science experiment. Another has a son who sees mystical messages on the backs of cereal boxes. And yet another is a film critic (Bob Balaban) who narrates his interactions with other tenants as though all of life were simply one long, bad movie review (whatever other failings the movie has, this particular character is a stroke of snarky genius). Unfortunately, we don’t get enough of their idiosyncrasies as the inhabitants of the real world are immediately put to work in service to the fantasy girl.
But the film is right about one thing—we all do have a purpose. And right now, mine is to remind you that you don’t need to waste eight bucks on a bad movie to find that out.
Megan Basham is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide To Having It All
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