Ah, M. Night Shyamalan, what do you have in store for me this time? A movie about a beach that causes people to age rapidly? Alright, I’m in, I guess! I don’t have strong feelings either way about Shyamalan, which is likely because I haven’t seen the movies he’s made which are known to be bad (I’ve skipped Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth). But I always find his outings to be fun, at the very least.
That Old, Shyamalan’s latest, is fun is probably the nicest thing I could say about it. It’s literally about roughly a dozen people trying to escape a beach that makes you age one year every half hour.
This premise had promise, but Shyamalan fails to take it anywhere deep or interesting. Like this Twitter thread explains, Old wears its themes on its sleeves. People age faster than they can comprehend and can’t get out of the process. That sentence could either describe the movie’s plot or aging in real life; that’s how apparent it is. And the typical Shyamalan twist (it’s not even a spoiler anymore to say that there’s a twist) functions more as an epilogue than a reframing of what we’ve seen. The whole film is a supposed comment on aging, while the twist comes in and makes a quick aside about one other topic (that, I will not spoil).
Old takes itself so seriously that it becomes unintentional comedy. I was unsure about whether I was supposed to be amused or terrified by certain images or lines of dialogue, but I really don’t think it was intentional. The rest of the audience I saw it with seemed to agree, because I was far from the only one laughing.
All this being said… I had a good time at the movies watching Old. The film definitely isn’t good, and it might be bad, but I didn’t come out of the theater in a bad mood like I tend to do if I’ve just seen something disappointing. Because this wasn’t disappointing at all. Going in, I hoped for something of substance, but wasn’t too optimistic. So coming out, having experienced ridiculous dialogue, better conveniences than “somehow Palpatine returned,” and over-serious cinematography, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d had a good time.
Shyamalan won’t wow you with an Oscar contender. That really shouldn’t be your expectation anyway. There’s a reason this movie came out in the middle of July, so try not to take it too seriously. It takes itself seriously in that it’s not winking to the camera at its ridiculousness, but not in that it expects you to have a personal crisis as a result of what you’ve just watched. Old is the best bad movie of the year.