Thursday, January 26, 2006

So this is what drove him to Jesus: "Signs"

So I got called for jury duty the other day. Had to report after ignoring the first notice back in November. Didn't need any unruly bailiffs knocking on my door.

This marked the third time in six years I'd been called, and the last time saw me end up in a murder trial. Boy, was that fun. Nothing like hearing about a case where everyone -- hell, even the lawyers -- seemed to be on drugs. As you might guess, I wasn't looking to duplicate that experience this week.

Fortunately, I can report that this latest experience was the best. Not only did I not get called to a courtroom during the one day I had to be there, but they helped us kill time by showing a couple of movies. The court folks apparently had a thing for M. Night Shyamalalalalalalalalan, since they started with "The Village" -- which I skipped because, well, it sucks -- and ended with "Signs." I had seen that, too, but it wasn't bad, and what else was I going to do? Read?

"Signs" has Mel Gibson as a recently widowed reverend raising his kids on the Pennsylvania farm where his brother Joaquin Phoenix also lives. They discover large crop circles in their corn field, then get other strange signs that aliens may be among us and preparing to visit in even larger numbers. Something tells me those 4-H clubs and FFA meetings didn't prepare the family for that kind of thing.

The theme, which M. Night batters us over the head with, is belief -- Gibson's belief in God, or lack of it after his wife's death, and the family's varying belief in the aliens. There's also a kind of everything-happens-for-a-reason thing going as the alien invasion becomes more and more of a possibility, all the way up to the big finale. Being this is the guy who brought us "The Sixth Sense" and other "gotcha" movies, the ending isn't what you might think, but it's also not a big "a-ha" twist.

Like I said, it's not bad, mainly because the actors are likable and have some good dialogue, and Shyamalan does ratchet up the suspense pretty well. There are a few nice "made you jump" scenes, and the kids are cute, especially the girl named Bo. Gibson's character is waaaayyy too somber, even for a widower, but that's standard for the director. It's not like Bruce Willis was a laugh a minute in "The Sixth Sense" or "Unbreakable," and "The Village"-rs were practically sleepwalking. I guess it's nice that we at least had Phoenix to liven things up, although belting out "Ring of Fire" during the alien invasion wasn't very appropriate.


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