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MOVIE REVIEW - Signs (2002) starring Mel Gibson

Al Holst, Owner of TV ACRESWritten & directed by M. Night Shyamalan, Signs (2002) is a rip-off of the classic sci-fi film The War of the Worlds (1953) with a touch of Jodie Foster's Panic Room (2002) thrown in for effect. If you've seen both of these films, you've seen Signs.

Essentially, here's the plot. Graham Hess, a Protestant minister (Mel Gibson), now a widower, lives on a farm in Bucks County outside of Philadelphia. It's summer. The corn is as high as an elephant's eye, but there's something strange roaming on Hess's property.

Upon investigation, the minister (called "Father" by the town folks) discovers someone has made crop circles in his field. Suspecting some local troublemakers, he tells the county sheriff. Then, the TV news reports crop circles appearing all over the world. The crop circles turn out to be directional markers for an invading armada of alien ships that appear as large lights in the sky.

Fearing the end of the world, the minister huddles with his family, which includes Bo Hess (Abigail Breslin), a cute little girl who is finicky about her drinking water, Morgan Hess (Rory Culkin), a young boy who has asthma, and the minister's younger brother, Merrill Hess (Joaquin Phoenix) who is a local baseball legend.

When the aliens begin to pound on the house, the minister and his family hide out in the basement. But, Oh no! the little boy doesn't have his asthma medicine (shades of "Panic Room"). But, courageously, they struggle through the night. Forgetting not, of course, to turn off their flashlights to preserve their batteries.

The next day, the aliens are gone. The TV stations report, for some strange reason, the aliens decided to leave Earth. Then, just when the family thinks everything is safe, there is an alien in their living room. It picks up the asthmatic boy and threatens to kill him.

The minister's younger brother come to the rescue by grabbing his Louisville Slugger baseball bat off of the wall and beating the alien to a pulp. The farm is saved, the minister who had lost his wife to a traffic accident six months earlier, rediscovers his faith and returns to his religious calling. End of Story.

Some points of contention. The reason the aliens left the planet was because water is like an acid to them. When they discovered that the people of Earth learned of their weakness, they conveniently split. But come on, why try to conquer a planet that is mostly covered with water in the first place.

And why place Mel Gibson in a role as meek, spiritually challenged man when he has spent his career creating the persona of a man of action?

All in all, the movie was filled with mistakes that pulled you out of the movie and made you say, "what!" For instance, after the minister discovers an alien from an other planet (did you hear me - an alien from another planet!) locked in the pantry of a farm house, he walks away from the alien and then casually reports it to his family. There was no action taken to inform the police. Consequently, at the end of the film the same alien, appears to menace his family. Boy! he (the minister) got what he deserved for being so stupid. To think that a normal person who is a close friend to the local sheriff (Cherry Jones) wouldn't contact law enforcement about the alien is truly absurd. These are the kinds of mistakes that make a moviegoer want to reach into the movie screen and slap a few actors around.

In the end, this film was more hype than substance. Coming from the guy who did the movie The Sixth Sense ("I can see dead people"), the lack of originality in this film was a disappointment. And knowing that M. Night Shyamalan film's have surprise plot twists, I expected the same with Signs, but I was truly let down.

If you haven't seen the film yet, I recommend you wait for it to come to the video stores at a much reduced price. Better yet, wait for your local library to buy the film and rent it for free.

As for this reviewer, I give the movie two stars out of four, but I will sneak back later tonight and steal those two stars back.

-- Jerome A. Holst


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