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cinema: Child-like story isn't likely to make a splash; LADY IN THE WATER (PG) * * *.

Byline: by Roz Laws

WRITER/director M. Night Shyamalan exploded into cinemas with the fabulous film The Sixth Sense. Since then, it's been downhill all the way.

Unbreakable was pretty good, Signs just average and The Village very disappointing.

But his latest project shows signs his career is not yet dead in the water. It's not great, but this bizarre but oddly compelling movie is an improvement.

This is a story Shyamalan thought up for his children, though it's more like something a 10-year-old would write.

Don't miss the start because that's when the plot is explained, leaving no room for one of Shyamalan's final twists.

People in the water used to be our guides until we stopped listening, and now they're back to show us the way.

Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the nymph or 'narf' who appears in the swimming pool of an apartment complex. Caretaker Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) sets about helping her to fulfill her mission and return to her Blue World.

Standing in the way is a vicious, grass-covered creature called a scrunt, which provides a couple of scary moments.

So we have scrunts, narfs, magic mud and signs in cereal boxes. But all the characters, instead of saying "this is ridiculous", happily join in the fairytale.

The Lady In The Water is interestingly shot and Giamatti is likeable in his stuttering, bumbling way. But I don't think Shyamalan, who casts himself in a self-indulgent role, meant it to be quite so unintentionally funny.

CAPTION(S):

A BIT WET: stars Bryce Dallas Howard and Paul Giamatti
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Aug 13, 2006
Words:261
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