A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the movie features a fierce dog-like creature most often indicated by shadows or red lights (his eyes). His attacks (he crashes through glass, drags off a girl, and kills a character) are rendered in quick cuts, hectic camera movements, and victims' screams. The creature is eventually ripped apart by monkey-like creatures in another dark, loud, and chaotic scene. The film includes a couple of jump scenes. A few characters smoke cigarettes.
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What's the story?
Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) appears an ordinary fellow, a Philadelphia apartment complex superintendent with a bit of a stutter and shuffling gait. He knows his tenants by name, gently reminding them to follow the rules (no swimming in the pool after 7pm, no smoking in the units), but mostly keeps to himself. When someone starts making noises in the pool during the night, he feels he has to take a stand. But then he discovers the swimmer is not a tenant, but a pale girl named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), who comes from the water (she calls it "the blue world"), and has arrived among humans in order to deliver what she terms an "awakening" to a very special human. When Story is attacked by a dangerous dog-monster called a "scrunt" (a CGIed creature who lurks in the lawn, then leaps up to rip her flesh with its big teeth), Heep assembles his tenants -- including a single father (Jeffrey Wright), a woman who loves animals (Mary Beth Hurt), a kid fond of lifting weights (Freddy Rodriguez), a philosophical slacker (Jared Harris), and a film critic named Farber (Bob Balaban) -- each with his or her own particular task to save her.
Is it any good?
More soggy than scary, LADY IN THE WATER follows a sad, inward-looking man's efforts to make sense of random violence. Much like previous protagonists in M. Night Shyamalan's movies, Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) harbors a secret and finds salvation in a generous and heroic act. Once again, this act is prodded along by otherworldly and very carefully arranged forces. This time, however, the arrangement is awkward and overexplained, as if the movie doesn't trust viewers to get it.
Heep's own reading improves throughout Lady in the Water. His earnest enthusiasm, sharp wit, and utter commitment to saving his new friend Story suggest that effective readers look beyond themselves. Writers might also take note.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Heep's dedication to figuring out the story/puzzle, as this shows his generosity as well as his need to work through his own past trauma. How does Story inspire Heep and the other tenants? How do the diverse characters work together toward a common goal? How does Story's story become everyone's?
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