Directed by David Goyer
Over the past few weeks since the release of Disturbia (review here), I’ve heard and read a lot of complaints about how it’s just a typical watered down, dumbed down PG-13 teen-centric crapfest that had no right to share the same air in multiplexes with the far superior Grindhouse. Some even went so far as to declare our beloved genre “dead” after it came in #1 at the box office for three straight weeks. Well, I disagreed and tried to explain why in my review of that film. With regard to The Invisible, however, all those criticisms — and more– apply 100%. Sadly, it employs every cliché thrown around about PG-13 horror and invents a few new ones as well.
You want to talk about angsty teens who mope around and follow the much maligned “Hot Topic formula” for success in horror films? Look no further than The Invisible. To be fair, the film does start off promisingly. Justin Chatwin (Nick) does an admirable job — for a while — of portraying a kid who’s been raised by his widowed mom (Harden) in the lap of luxury but with no real personal connection to her. He’s on the verge of graduating from high school and only wants one thing: Mom’s permission to enroll in a writing class in London. You see, Nick is a deep and sensitive guy who writes poetry and has no real friends besides a few people who pay him to cheat for them and Pete (Marquette). With a friend like Pete, who needs enemies? He uses Nick to bail him out of some trouble he’s gotten himself into by buying an illegal cell phone from the class tough chick/hoodlum-in-the-making Annie (Levieva).
As you might suspect, Annie has a troubled home life; her dad and stepmom fight constantly, often about her, and her boy friend Marcus (O’Laughlin) is on parole but still has a side-line business trafficking stolen merchandise that she helps him acquire. She’s out of control. The only good thing in Annie’s life is her little brother, Victor, who, of course, looks to her for comfort, but she has none to offer. If things keep going the way they have been, poor neglected, misunderstood Annie is heading straight to prison. Even Detective Larson, on old family friend who served on the police force with Annie’s father before some unexplained event resulted in Dad getting fired, can’t save her after she’s ratted out for robbing a jewelry store. Pete leads her to believe it was Nick who turned her in (when actually it was the good-for-nothing Marcus), and she exacts her revenge by beating up Nick and leaving him for dead in a storm drain deep in the woods near his house — with two of her partners in crime and Pete in tow. I swear the kids in this movie are so dumb they make your typical slasher victim look like a rocket scientist. Anyway, if you’ve seen the trailer (and I can’t imagine anyone hasn’t since it’s been playing for months now), then you know that Nick is hovering between life and death and doing everything he can to convey to his mother, the cops, and Annie that with just a little effort on their parts, he can be saved.
Up to this point The Invisible rolls along fairly satisfactorily although the musical interludes when something “important” is happening really go on far too long and detract from the on-screen action. Popular songs should accentuate emotions, not explain them. The camera work is very vanilla, but Chatwin is convincingly sympathetic, and Levieva shows real promise as the delinquent with a heart of gold who, if Nick can reach her, can maybe turn her life around and do something decent for once.
But then Annie takes her knit cap off. The rest of her clothes and an oddly out of place shower scene follow. I’m not exactly sure why, but from then on The Invisible falls into a black hole of absurdity from which it cannot escape. Annie is suddenly a super-criminal able to evade the police in the most ludicrous of fashions. Like a ninja, she walks on the top of a bridge and later engages the officers in a far-fetched high speed car chase. Plus Levieva looks too old to be playing a high schooler. But that’s not even the worst of it. She and Nick become soulmates of sorts, laying together and sharing moments that caused this reviewer, a self-confessed hopeless romantic, to roll my eyes and laugh out loud at the silliness of it all. She killed him, and now he’s falling for her. He can’t help himself. They’re both … wait for it … invisible to the rest of the world! And she’s just so cute with her hair out from under that ugly hat. Riiiiight. I’m all about forgiveness, but give me a break!
I went into this film thinking it might be something at least a little special. Back in January Goyer did an interview (read about it here) in which he stated, “We didn’t do the bullshit [ending] … If anything, we went more tragic in some ways … The biggest issue I had with the original Swedish film was I thought they kind of copped out on the ending.” Well, sometime between now and January things must have changed drastically because the version I saw had about the most unoriginal ending imaginable. It may be that Goyer and I have different ideas of what constitutes “tragic”; or The Invisible may simply be the latest result of a curse we, the horror audience, are forced to endure time and time again: studio tinkering. Which would also explain the long gap between the first time we saw the trailer and when the film was actually released. But Buena Vista doesn’t seem to be the meddling type, and honestly, even a different ending couldn’t save The Invisible. I cared nothing about the main characters and found myself wishing the film were about the two cops, Larson and Tunney (Rennie and Harrison), instead. They at least had chemistry and more than one facial expression. Only three scenes were the least bit memorable: Nick’s realization that nobody in his English class can see him, which was spoiled by the trailer so almost doesn’t count anyway; Marcia Gay Harden’s meltdown; and Chatwin’s interaction with a canary. Yes, a dying bird gave the best performance and stole the film.
Along with answering my doubts about how much control Goyer had over the end result, maybe the DVD version of The Invisible will also explain what happened to the old man from the trailer you see above. His image is striking and made me want to see the film, but he wound up on the cutting room floor. I guess he’s the lucky one. He really is invisible to anyone who saw the finished product and won’t be associated with it. No doubt the rest of the cast wishes they could say the same.
1 out of 5
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