Harry Ridgway’s review published on Letterboxd:
There is something awfully abnormal about M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening. Off kilter and slight, the film appears as if cut out of cardboard and assembled in the crude form of Mark Wahlberg and the perplexed ambience encompassing him. This is the biggest blunder of The Happening; its artificial aesthetic and superficiality that reverberates a hollow thud if smacked. Too many comical missteps and impracticalities hinder any believability in the picture. It's unfocused, misguided, unintentionally amusing and another taint in Shyamalan's trajectory.
"We're destroying our planet!" Global warming is our doing! It's a film with depth and warnings people!" Shyamalan yelps through the loudspeaker labelled The Happening. Yes, the message of humankind's recklessness and what the globe might do to retaliate is provocative, but the errors of Shyamalan's execution are twofold. His perverted vision and strained themes banish any possibility of a return to splendour.
Shyamalan constructs each character out of oxidized metal and once he flicks the switch and his creations begin to function, its blatant they aren't genuine. They're movements and speech are carbon copies of humans - these are imposters. A ridiculous thought indeed, but Shyamalan's populace for this tale are so robotic you wouldn't be surprised to hear of their falseness. Dialogue intersects the junction of nonsensicality and triviality for the entire runtime, never once cultivating itself and attempting to develop authentic humans. We're expected to sympathize with the main family but instead we remain dispassionate, leaning back on our chairs and smirking at their daftness, or oppositely, becoming irritated by their brainless verdicts.
But The Happening's saviour that yanks it out of the sinister 0.5/5 depths is its slickness. The camera work is very solid and there's some surprisingly inventive moments such as the gun sequence and the construction site mass suicide. It's with these sections that a faint flicker of Shyamalan's true genius manifests; where his yearning for originality was once powerful and dazzling. Somewhere along the way this virtuoso was weakened, so instead all we get are glimpses of the once commanding filmmaker.
Wahlberg's attempt at subversion is commendable however; distancing himself from his stereotypical machismo characters and adopting a more benevolent and intelligent persona. But despite his valiant effort, his science teacher fails simply because of his tediousness. Wahlberg musters all he can with the dialogue given, but it still comes off as tacky - he still deserves praise for trying however. The rest of the cast seem to be operated by the confused puppetmaster Shyamalan, being forced to speak sentences they're half embarrassed by. Zooey Deschanel's portrayal comes off as shallow and John Leguizamo is just another dull presence. But the actors attempt at making their characters interesting is respectable.
Call me insular, but I could not perceive this mistake as a B-movie packed with fun and quirky references, but rather a sour attempt at resurrection from Shyamalan. It's depiction of people is so distorted and everyone's motives are mostly just dumb. In fact it's dumb, with its continuity errors and plotholes around every turn. In saying all of this negativity however, its good fun. It's so bad its good, which I would prefer any day over a film so bad its soporific.
"I'm talking to a plastic plant....... I'm still doing it."