Shyamalan’s cinematic magic no longer Happening

IT’S a common mistake, but still worth noting: Contrary to what many people seem to think, The Sixth Sense was not M. Night Shyamalan’s first movie.

It was, in fact, his third. But virtually no one had seen his first film, Praying with Anger (still not available on DVD), or his second film, Wide Awake (with Rosie O’Donnell as a nun who really likes baseball).

So when The Sixth Sense came out in the summer of 1999 and wowed audiences with its deeply felt drama and its shocking twist ending — becoming such a big word-of-mouth hit that, for the next couple years, it was one of the top 10 films of all time at the North American box office — it was easy for many people to treat the film as though it marked the debut of a brilliant and brand-new talent.

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Review: Wide Awake (dir. M. Night Shyamalan, 1998)

HOLLYWOOD films have always had trouble with child actors and religious themes. That sad, sweet, overly sentimental legacy continues in Wide Awake, in which a 10 year old student at a Catholic school goes on a quest for God after the death of his devout grandfather.

Joseph Cross, the auspiciously named actor who plays Joshua, the 10 year old in question, is thankfully not as cloying here as he was in Desperate Measures, if only because he doesn’t have to pretend to be a bed-ridden cancer patient this time.

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