Saturday, July 3, 2010

Grumpy Movie Review: The Last Airbender

God this movie was lame. As a fan of the show on Nickelodeon I was excited at the idea of a movie adaptation, but as soon as I found out M. Night Shyamalan was directing I had reservations. And then when I read that pretty much every reviewer was basically calling the movie a steaming pile of dogshit, I didn't even want to bother seeing it. But Mrs. Grump-to-be, as the one who got me into the show in the first place, was still hopeful that it could be good, so we gave it a shot. Our hope was that the reviewers who hated the movie either didn't really watch the show, or were just continuing the tradition of bashing any M. Night Shyamalan movie that isn't The Sixth Sense (which, I must say, I disagree about when it comes to Unbreakable and The Village, which I thought were really good). After seeing the movie, I must say that Shyamalan lived up to the expectations....The Last Airbender was pretty much a steaming pile of dogshit.

I could get into what all the other reviewers said and point out the awful dialogue, the stiff acting, and the overuse of exposition, but I think what it comes down to is that Shyamalan seems to have missed what made the TV show so good in the first place: the balance of an interesting plot with the silly tone of a story that doesn't take itself too seriously. The TV show never forgot that it was a kid's show, and while the movie stays true to the events of the plot, it winds up getting lost up its own ass trying to be an epic masterpiece. These delusions of grandeur lead to some pretty cool special effects, but they basically had the same effect as putting sugar on top of a steaming pile of dogshit.

The one saving grace for the movie was the performance by Dev Patel as Prince Zuko. Personally, when the movie was first announced I was hoping they would cast the guy who did the voice for the TV show, Dante Basco, who you might know better as Rufio! Rufio! Ru! Fi! OOOOOOOOOOO! Granted he's in his 30s at this point, but if you look at his picture on IMDB you'll see that he could easily still play a teenager. But, since they didn't go with him, I must say I was glad to see Patel get the job. He was so damn earnest in Slumdog Millionaire, and that carries over into his portrayal of Zuko.

Unfortunately, M. Night Shyamalan's (perhaps misplaced) confidence in his ability to make movies lead him to only address the first season of the show, with a lot of the plot left open for him to make a couple of sequels. If the movie makes enough money where he does have the opportunity to continue the franchise, I can at least take solace in the fact that Dev Patel will continue to get work.

Grade: D

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