“Can you believe I found this online?” a delighted Prisca asks husband Guy at the beginning of “Old,” as their family arrives at a glistening beach resort.
Although not to be a Debbie Downer, this isn’t a good sign for either the family or the film. The vacation horror movie’s most popular catchphrase is “Can you believe that I found it online?” You can set your watch to the time that a character says this, regardless of whether they are at an idyllic English estate or a beautiful coastal retreat. The first body will appear within minutes.
We still hope for the best. The M. Night Shyamalan film “Old” has a clever and provocative premise. We are a captive audience, and that’s not surprising. It’s summer. It’s been an awful, miserable year. We could all use two hours at a beautiful, virtual beach. We just need some meaty characters that we can root for, some backstory to make it feel real, and some decent dialogue to keep things moving. It’s not much to ask.
It is, apparently. Shyamalan, who rely solely on a hypnotic premise and beautiful scenery, seems to be unable to deal with this. It is just not enough.
The characters are quirky, but trust us, not in a good way — in an annoying, instantly tedious, I-dare-you-to-care-about-me way. Although the children are good, each adult is exaggerated and more absurd than the last. Perhaps it’s not their fault. It’s often cartoonishly awkward. You will find yourself laughing a lot, but you’ll quickly realize that this is not comedy.
Guy and Prisca are on vacation with their children, Trent, 6 and Maddox 10, respectively. Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal), an anxious insurance actuary, is on vacation with their children, Trent, 6, and Maddox (10). Prisca (Vicky Krieps), a museum curator, is clearly keeping a secret. In an early scene, the couple argue, with their children listening in. “You always think of the future!” Prisca yells. It makes me feel invisible! Guy responds: “You always think of the past!” The children don’t know what they are talking about. You would not believe it, honestly.
They are offered a tempting opportunity by the creepy resort manger: a trip on a private beach in a nature preserve surrounded by cliffs. They soon set off in a van driven by Shyamalan, who is also driving the hotel van.
Things quickly get weird on the beautiful beach. Maddox spots Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre), a well-known hip-hop artist, and he is sat dazed at the distance. Trent decides to swim, but he encounters the floating body of a woman who had been with the rapper recently. The group attempts to call for help but no one is available. Patricia (Nikki AmukaBird), an epileptic therapist, and Jarin (Ken Leung), her husband, arrive.
All this turmoil pales in comparison to what’s happening suddenly to everyone: They’re all aging. It’s happening quickly. This is more evident with children, who suddenly become teenagers after being school-aged (Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie, a lovely but underused Thomasin McKenzie). Panic sets in and there is no escape. When anyone attempts to leave, their brains are attacked and they go black.
What is the situation? According to the group, a half hour on the beach is equal to one year of life. People will surely die. Only question is, who will die first?
We don’t even care about them. We wouldn’t be surprised if someone had a soccer-ball-sized tumor removed from their stomach if we were made to. Or the unintended pregnancy.
The dialogue is so absurd! This is not for laughs.
It all boils down to the Shyamalan-style ending twist. Although it is the most enjoyable part of the film it’s way, way too late. We’re all ready for some beach fun this summer. We’re getting tired by the time the secret is out. It’s possible that this is a good thing. The film runs for an hour and forty-eight minutes. Just a warning: You’ll be four-years older by the end.
“Old,” a Universal release has been rated PG-13 for “strong violence, disturbing images and suggestive content”, running time: 108 min. Two stars out four.