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click for full sized poster

What Lies Beneath

Rated [PG-13], 110 minutes
Starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford
Screenplay by Clark Gregg
Based on a story by Sarah Kernochan and Gregg
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
website: www.amazon.com/whatliesbeneath

IN SHORT: Big name stars and director can't save a loser script

You would think that a thriller teaming Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford -- can you think of a sexier middle aged couple? -- with director Robert Zemeckis, who's helmed some great entertainments (like Forrest Gump), would probably be a good thing, right? Especially when the ads promise that viewer favorite, bodily possession by a dead person. Think again.

We'll file this in our "Not a Good Thing When The Mind Wanders" File": Claire Spencer (Michelle Pfeiffer), a perfectly clean cut All-American ex-professional musician housewife, is losing her mind. She's convinced that she's (probably a) witness to the murder of a neighbor. She also is starting to think that her lovely lakeside house is haunted by the ghost of a washed up looking young blonde. Doors open mysteriously. Pictures fall off shelves all by themselves. Mysterious mists fill the house and the bathtub fills itself and Michelle can see the dead girl reflected in the calm waters filling the tub to its lip. And all this atmosphere takes up a good first hour of What Lies Beneath, and then Michelle and hubby Norman (Harrison Ford) go antiquing in the rustic town of Adamant.

The mp3 player in the back of my head started going tick-a ticka tick-a, then the horns kicked in and I thought of Claire's squeaky clean image and this old chestnut started going full blast (feel free to sing along...)

You don't drink,
Don't smoke,
What do ya do?

You should run for the hills, which we all know white people in thriller flicks are too stupid to do. That's about the sum of the tepid mess that is the product from the usually impressive directorial hand of Robert Zemeckis. What Lies Beneath is well crafted, sure, but a bad EC horror comic-type story as done by Bernie Wrightson a la the 70s House of Mystery anthology is still a good comic book story stretched beyond all capacities of an audience to endure. Thank you Mr. Z for your little tribute to Hitchcock's Psycho shower scene (Pfeiffer pulls a shower curtain down) and the staccato strings are reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann's classic scores, but do you have to bore us silly while waiting for the orchestra to go REALLYLOUDSCARYSTING!!! We've seen it, We've heard it way too many times before. It's been done to death and you've added nothing new to the thriller genre. Nothing.

What Lies Beneath begins with a totally disposable scene of collegiate post-partum depression, as mommy Claire doesn't want to see her all grown up baby daughter go off to big girl school. Is Claire just depressed or is she telling the truth when eyes see what seems to be the neighbor disposing of the body of his wife -- a woman known to be terrified of her husband. Dropped in the middle of the rest of this disposable stuff is the history of a car accident Claire had a year earlier. That accident is more important to this flick than anything else in this paragraph. There's a minor interlude during which Claire's best friend Jody (Diana Scarwid) helps her conduct a seance to contact the ghost, and then gives her a book with a handy incantation to "conjure the dead". Well, they had to get that spirit into the real world somehow. We just wish that screenwriter Clark Gregg had concentrated on that aspect of the story

The entire third act of the movie, in which everything and every character goes topsy turvy, hinges on it. Telling you why would spill the "surprises". All I'll say is that if the first hour of this flick could've been cut in half, the back end may have worked better. Other than that, this film is a by the template would be thriller, with Harrison Ford playing the weak male. Whatever was the man thinking?

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to What Lies Beneath, he would have paid...

$2.00

A waste of your time.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.