chicken and seafood are not such a good mix after all. It seems the local poultry processing plant
has been dumping the cluckers’ waste and entrails into the Chesapeake Bay. All the hormones and genetic boosters mixed
with a little radiation have had a nasty effect on the isopods. The resulting bio-scare is documented by a rookie
reporter and scads of random handheld devices in Barry Levinson’s massively
disappointing The Bay (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
her online introduction, former journalism intern Donna Thompson ominously explains
to the audience they are about to see the truth the government tried to cover
up. Fortunately, the g-men never ran a
simple web search, which would have brought up a good chunk of the film we are
about to sit through. It is the Fourth
of July in Claridge, Maryland, but all is not well. Large schools of fish have washed up
dead. Then humans start showing alarming
a good part of his town breaking out in boils and coughing up stomach lining, Mayor
Stockman reacts by going into full stonewalling mode. We know he must be a bad guy, because he has
nice things to say about business. His
name is Stock Man, that says it all, doesn’t?
However, the overworked emergency room doctor duly notifies Homeland
Security, who spring into action half a day later. Okay, that part we can buy into.
found footage genre usually has weak characterization, because the conceit does
not allow for much getting-to-you development, but The Bay hits a new low. As
much as we are supposed to hiss at Mayor Stockman, he is the film’s most distinctive
personality. Aside from some rueful
self-deprecating remarks, the audience gets absolutely no sense of Thompson as
an individual. Yet, though she seems to
be the protagonist, she hardly figures in any of the action.
is a problem when a film’s climax sneaks past you, but that is exactly what
happens in The Bay when the credits
start to role after a brief voiceover attempts to tie up the rat’s nest of
loose ends. In contrast, anyone seeing North By Northwest for the first time
will realize it is do or die time when Cary Grant is hanging off Mount
Rushmore. Of course, Hitchcock’s film is
a classic and Levinson’s genre outing is a didactic snooze.
Anything can be forgiven in an effective
creature feature, but The Bay hardly
has any narrative arc to it, whatsoever, and no real suspense to speak of. It is truly surprising a consistently commercial
director like Levinson (Bugsy, Diner,
Good Morning Vietnam) could helm such an inert, lifeless film, but here it
is. A dud on every level, The Bay is not recommended at all when
it opens this Friday (11/2) in New York at the IFC Center.
Labels: Barry Levinson, Creature features, Found footage