Well, my defense of M. Night Shyamalan certainly struck a nerve last week. The thread generated the expected disagreements and the occasional vaguely racist mocking of the man's last name but it also, as a commenter pointed out, served as a sort of support group for the strong minority who admire his recent work. There was enough interest in the conversation that I thought I'd follow up by offering this space to discuss this weekend's The Happening, which looks headed for a respectable $30 million-ish opening despite predictably middling reviews.

Our James Rocchi liked the movie, and I offer my abbreviated thoughts after the jump. If you haven't seen it, beware of spoilers.

The bottom line: I thought it was okay. As is always the case with Shyamalan, the movie offers a lot of moments that are creepy, beautiful, occasionally even breathtaking. I won't soon forget Mrs. Jones' head going through the window, or the trek of the policeman's gun, or the way a gust of wind became a portent of doom. James Newton Howard comes up with another masterpiece of a musical score, a creepy piano theme entwining with heartwrenching violins to create something gorgeous and frightening. I liked the film's environmentalist bent -- its conceit may not be plausible, exactly, but it is, in a weird way, logical. And I found Shyamalan's dogged insistence on a love-conquers-all message oddly moving.

At the same time, parts of The Happening are so clunky I had trouble believing that this is the same man who wrote Unbreakable and The Village -- two elegant, subtle, impeccably constructed films. There's an abundance of awkward, lazy exposition: Drawn-out talk show explanations, godawful lines like "Hurry up! You don't want to be late for the first day schools are open!", explicit spelling-out of Shyamalan's pet anti-science themes. The entire second act and most of the third basically has the movie spinning its wheels. Mark Wahlberg gives the worst performance of his career, stilted and wooden; how could the director have thought it was acceptable? The Happening gave me the impression that Shyamalan was asleep at the wheel, with just enough of his talent emerging to make the movie watchable, and barely worthwhile.

Does this mean I need to eat my words from last week? I don't think so, but you tell me. One request: Please only post if you've seen the film. If your response is "I refuse to see The Happening because I'm sick of M. Night Shyamalan," we've already hashed that out over here.