February 7, 2008

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The Eye (PG-13)
Jessica Alba has spooky eyes that — boo! — show her dead people and angry grim reaper types in The Eye, a silly movie that depends way too much on the acting of Jessica Alba.

You know, Alba can be well suited to a role. Remember the first season of Dark Angel (before all that nonsense about the dog people)? She was good in that, believable enough not to get in the way of all the kicking and punching. Somewhere along the line, she seems to have smoothed out the rough edges of that breakthrough role and created a blander, less engaging screen image. Is the middling success she’s had at trying to be the next Cameron Diaz really worth the loss of a unique-ish personality?

Sydney Wells (Alba) gets her uniqueness from having freaky clouded blue sightless eyes and mad skills on the violin. Her blindness was the result of a childhood accident and even though she’s adjusted just fine, her sister Helen (Parker Posey) has some residual guilt over Sydney’s blindness and encourages her to get a corneal transplant. Sydney does and wakes up to the disorienting blurriness of her blood-shot eyes relearning to see. She also sees strange figures in all the haze — is that dark blob just her imagination or some sort of howling otherworld demon? If she’d seen the movie’s opening scenes where a girl hanged herself to the taunts of “bruja, bruja” by the village children and the roar of a smudgy grim reaper, perhaps Sydney would be able to get to the answer to that question faster.

Once she decides for herself that her new eyes are eeeevil, Sydney still has some trouble convincing the world at large. Thankfully, a smitten-seeming eye doctor (Alessandro Nivola) decides to humor her a bit and help her examine the origin of all these creepy visions.

Thanks to the Internet and specifically to TVGuide.com’s podcast, I’ve gathered that the original Chinese film on which this movie is based is quite good. In fact, this The Eye is actually not too lame to keep me from seeking out that original. But “actually not too lame” is probably as complimentary as I can be to this movie. It drags, it’s boring where it should be suspenseful and it doesn’t really get interesting, storywise, until the final third, at which point we can already guess how all the plot points will add up.

And then there’s Jessica Alba.

Alba just can’t muster up (or isn’t allowed to have) real spark. As in the Fantastic Four movies, Honey, Good Luck Chuck and Awake, she can’t seem to bring the character to life. She remains defined by some physical aspect — like Sue Storm’s blonde hair. In this case . it’s those spooky eyes. Sadly, milky blue contacts lenses followed by whatever lenses mimic streaks of bloodshot red just aren’t enough to carry a whole movie. C-

Rated PG-13 for violence/terror and disturbing content. Directed by David Moreau and Xavier Palud and written by Sebastian Gutierrez (from the original screenplay by Jojo Yuet-Chun Hui, Oxide Pang and Danny Pang), The Eye is an hour and 37 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Lionsgate.