What makes a bedtime story a good bedtime story? Should it keep listeners awake with thrills and adventure? Or like a lullaby, is it something to lull us to sleep?

Judging from the tale of Lady in the Water, writer/director M. Night Shyamalan prefers bedtime stories about extraordinary creatures, scary monsters, troubled men who need redemption, and contrived plot twists.

And if Shyamalan's goal with this movie was to put viewers to sleep, well, he seems to be succeeding. Most critics—including those in the religious press—are disappointed in the film. Some think that Shyamalan has run out of the great ideas that made The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs so compelling. Others continue to praise his direction, but wish he would find a better screenwriter.

Lady in the Water begins with the emergence of an otherworldly woman named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), a peculiar kind of sea nymph called a "narf," who has come from her home in "the Blue World." She is found in a swimming pool at an apartment complex called The Cove, which is managed by a troubled, middle-aged widower named Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti). Dripping all over his couch, she announces that she has been sent to perform an important role in human history. But her quest is endangered by snarling wolf-monsters called "scrunts" that rise up from the grass to lurk around the property.

It quickly becomes evident that the real story here isn't about the sea nymph at all — it's about this stuttering handyman. Heep's a mess, a deeply wounded man, because, well, he's the central character in an M. Night Shyamalan film, which are always about wounded men who must be dragged kicking and screaming to confront their fears, overcome their deep hurts, and ...

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