Once in a blue moon, Hollywood releases a film that forever changes the face of cinema. The Godfather. Gone With the Wind. Star Wars. Obviously, M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 critical flop The Happening is not one of them. But it certainly changed my life. Two whole years after the film hit theaters — I had cast the thought of seeing it aside upon reading the approximately, oh, 537th bad review — a fellow bad-movie-loving friend persuaded me to watch the Mark Wahlberg flick after a night of
heavy drinking classy conversation about the intricacies of Proust’s work. And somewhere between listening to Wahlberg talk earnestly to a high school science class about bees and watching a lion rip off an extra’s arm, I was instantly hooked. It was official: The Happening was the funniest movie about mass death I had ever seen.
When I say my life changed after watching the credits roll, I’m not kidding. Instead of using original thought to participate in everyday discussions, I became a Happening quoting machine, listening intently for a moment in which I could insert lines like “Can you believe how crappy people are?” or “Take an interest in science!” or “You know, hot dogs get a bad rep. They got a cool shape, they got protein. You like hot dogs, don’t you?” into normal discussion — whether or not the parties involved were even Happening fans. (I’ll even save you the painful soliloquy about a “completely superfluous bottle of cough syrup,” even though, yes, I know it by heart.) Weekend nights soon became dedicated to Happening drinking games — involving alcoholic lemon drinks and, yes, cheese and crackers — and attempts to break down the following line into something that actually makes sense: “Ain’t no time two people staring at each other, or standing still, loving both with their eyes are equal.” Surprisingly, that actually is dialogue from the film, and not an e.e. cummings poem.
In fact, I adore The Happening so much that I’ve written more than 300 words before actually addressing my reason for even writing this post. During a press conference for his upcoming film, The Fighter, Wahlberg (at last!) addressed The Happening when discussing Fighter costar Amy Adams, who apparently was up for Zooey Deschanel’s role in the Shyamalan film: “We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie, and it was a really bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to…I don’t want to tell you what movie…all right, The Happening. F— it. It is what it is. F—ing trees, man. The plants. F— it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook.” Okay, so that explains the mystery surrounding why Wahlberg took the role. But one thing we still don’t know: Why aren’t you all interested in what happened to the bee bodies?
I do, however, have one thing to say to Wahlberg regarding his apparent regret making the film: What? No! (I know, I’m sorry. I just…can’t…resist.) Look, I devoured Wahlberg’s performance in The Departed and thought he was the best thing about Date Night, but I have never adored the actor more than during the 91 minutes he starred in Shyamalan’s greatest nonachievement. There is something so undeniably appealing about his consistently furrowed brow, his enthusiastically delivered lines, and his dedication to seeing this craptastic masterpiece through — even if it meant talking to a ficus. (And you thought Deschanel was Wahlberg’s most wooden costar!) So, Mark Wahlberg, friend, don’t diss The Happening unless you mean it — we’ve all made mistakes, so let’s just own this hilarious disaster. (I, for one, already do.) After all, I’ll never forget that my mood ring turned purple the first time I popped in the DVD — and, as you know, that means I was in love. Oh, no, wait, it just meant I was horny. WHY ARE YOU SAYING THESE THINGS IN FRONT OF AN 8-YEAR-OLD ORPHAN, ZOOEY DESCHANEL?!