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Bonus Points: Weekly Guide to DVDs

'Village': Overly Serious Shyamalan

By Jen Chaney
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 11, 2005;

"The Village" (Rated PG-13; List price: $29.99)
Release date: Jan. 11

The problem that plagued M. Night Shyamalan's 19th-century thriller "The Village" is the same one that dogs the DVD. The bonus material, like the movie that inspired it, takes itself way too seriously.

Joaquin Phoenix is one of "The Village" people in M. Knight Shyamalan's thriller, now on DVD. (Frank Masi - Touchstone Pictures)

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Though panned by some critics, "The Village" did respectable box office business during its theatrical run. And because Shyamalan is a talented filmmaker, the film delivers at least a couple of jump-out-of-your-seat moments. But the ponderous dialogue and Shyamalan's signature, predictable twist ending ultimately turned it into a disappointment. Unfortunately, viewers looking for insights into how Shyamalan went off track won't find them on this DVD.

In fact, the extras on this single disc are relatively sparse. Features include the intermittently interesting 25-minute documentary "Deconstructing the Village"; a featurette about the mysterious creatures who haunt "The Village"; five deleted scenes; diary entries by star Bryce Dallas Howard; and an excerpt from one of Shyamalan's childhood films, a recurring element on all of the director's DVDs. Also in keeping with the director's previous releases, there is no commentary track.

While the documentary provides some noteworthy moments -- including shots of the cast engaging in blacksmithing and cheese-making as part of their 19th-century "boot camp" -- much of it falls into the dreaded self-congratulatory category. "It's been an amazing experience, inside and outside the movie," William Hurt says, in a comment that's echoed multiple times by Sigourney Weaver, Adrien Brody and, of course, Shyamalan. Howard's diary is even more pointless. "Night has bestowed upon me yet another gift," she says, reading her journal entry about the "The Village" premiere in melodramatic voiceover. "The film has made Ivy Walker [Howard's character] alive again." Please.

Only "Those We Don't Speak Of," the featurette about designing the movie's monsters, and the deleted scenes, accompanied by explanations from Shyamalan about why they were excised, provide any meaningful glimpse into how "The Village" was created. I expected more out of a movie with a director and cast of this caliber. And that goes double for the DVD.

Funniest Bonus Point: I hope Shyamalan continues to include old home movies on his DVDs, because they're invariably good for a laugh. The one on "The Village" proves that Shyamalan has long aspired to be the next Spielberg; in it, he re-creates the opening scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark," featuring himself as a fedora-sporting Indiana Jones-style character. But instead of running away from a massive boulder, he gets chased by a dog. The three-minute mini-movie provides the only moment of much-needed comic relief among the DVD's extras.

Most Disappointing Bonus Points: Shyamalan's comments about the deleted scenes make them worth watching. But most of the scenes don't add much meat to the larger story, including one that has poor Howard standing in the middle of the woods as she shouts a particularly pretentious piece of dialogue: "It's for love that I am here!" And it was for my own peace of mind that I paused the DVD at that point to watch an episode of "The Daily Show."

Coming in next week's "Bonus Points": A review of "Cellular."

If you have feedback about "Bonus Points" or want to suggest a DVD for review, e-mail Jen Chaney.

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