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Mel Gibson signs his life away

Aug 4, 2002 (Updated Aug 4, 2002)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Great scares, great chemistry with the family, authentic "old days" feel.

Cons:The last "sign" is kind of silly, it's more about faith than aliens or cropcircles.

The Bottom Line: In the end, I believe Signs is going to be more fun to talk about than it is to actually watch.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

Maybe it's luck, maybe it's a miracle. But the sign is there... and it reads, Speed Limit 20.

When you sit there for 15 minutes pondering how in the world you're supposed to introduce your stance on a movie like Signs, it can only mean one of two things. One, that how a viewer takes in Signs is predominantly dictated by his or her own personal beliefs, but you don't have any, or two, you're an idiot.

An idiot's take on Signs

This Shyamalan guy has taken us on quite a few mind trips lately. First it was seeing dead people, next it was seeing other people's wrongdoings, now it's seeing.. I don't know, miracles? Yeah, there's the whole crop circle/alien thing, but the object of Shyamalan's films always seems to be not only about scaring or entertaining, but about sparking intellectual discussion. And the best way to do that is to keep the movie fairly abstract. And very very slow-moving.

Signs has a relatively short cast list... Mel Gibson as Father Graham Hess, Joaquin Phoenix as his shockingly much younger brother, then Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin as the two children, Morgan and Bo. On the "second tier" is Cherry Jones as an officer and Patricia Kalember as Colleen, Graham's wife. That's pretty much it. Unless you count Shy-guy himself, playing as the man who (unintentionally) killed Graham's wife.

Well, Graham's got a serious beef with the Almighty since the loss of his wife six months ago. Now he doesn't believe in miracles or signs, he refuses to pray at the dinner table, and to top things off, he's getting crop circles.. THE crop circles, right here on his farm.

Mystery is an integral part of power

There is a nagging mystery behind this cause that leaves you knowing little more than that when these "aliens" talk, they sound like a combination of the native language of Prot (K-Pax) and Will Smith's bbbbbbbb-s-ka-ppp thing that he does on MIB2. But even when you are expecting the inevitable revelation that they look incredibly similar to humans, it is still frightening if for no other reason than the simple fact that we humans are our own worst enemy.

As far as the crop circles themselves go, if you are looking for any kind of detailed explanation as to how or why they are made, well don't get your hopes up. Once it is discovered what is causing them, they are almost completely disposed of, except when used as a backdrop for Graham's denial scene. This denial comes out in the form of a superbly ironic line, I'm not reporting this to anyone... you will not become famous by this! Yeah, I guess not.

Mel Gibson's acting is as fabulous as ever. He's the perfect imperfect family man, with a knack for fathering kids amidst the pain of recent loss that in turn became a loss of his own being. The family hug towards the end of the movie is a fine moment spurred by many different emotions in each of the characters at once. It is touching, haunting, and even funny (Mel grabs his reluctant brother by the shirt and pulls him into the hug..LOL)

Joaquin Phoenix is terrific at everything he does; he doesn't get to see a lot of action, but his transformations on what he believes and what he doesn't as well as his reactions to what he sees on the news are completely geniune. His smart-aleck and other comedic moments are especially good. The two children round out the family nicely, and are both stunningly convincing in their roles.

"Boo!" -Casper
"Boo Boo!" -Yogi
"Boo Boo Boo!" -N*Sync haters

With most of the scares, I think that bracing for the scare was about as bad as the scare itself. I'm not the best second-by-second movie predictor out there, but I can usually tell when a scare is coming by a certain shot (usually of a character's face from the side, but slightly behind them) or a certain number of shots (usually 3 or 4) before it actually happens. Signs often leads you on for two or three times as long; just when you think you've been sucker punched, then it happens. Or it just tosses one in there when you would absolutely least expect it.

The whole atmosphere of the movie is dark, and even during the day scenes there is an uncomfortable vibe floating around. Between the farm setting and the family's only having one television, there is a kind of an "old days" feel going on as well, but Signs is not without its comedic moments. You'll probably laugh just as often as you jump out of your seat.

So what's everybody complaining about?

Different strokes for different folks I guess. But as for complaints, I suppose I could think of something. What appears to be a horrifying alien flick winds up having as its core a story of a man's loss of faith and his coming to terms with his own God. But if you ask me, real life miracles are infinitely better than miracles in movies. It's not a miracle when a director wants it to happen; it is when God himself wants it to happen. Miracles don't belong in movies if their sole purpose is turning a character back around to God's side, when the "One" who controls the character's future is also a human being. On the other hand, since it is only a representation of the "real thing", it's really not my place to say that it's claiming to be anything more than what it is. For some it will be inspiring. For others it will be numbing. For Leonard Shelby, he might just say, "We don't need miracles to remind ourselves who we are. I'm no different." Okay, that was pushing it.

In the end, I believe Signs is going to be more fun to talk about than it is to actually watch. The movie gives us effects of which we can only guess the cause, and causes of which we can only guess the effect.

Recommend this product? Yes

Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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