The Invisible



"The Invisible" is a remake of a 2002 Swedish film, which is itself an adaptation of a novel, so perhaps this is a case of a story getting too many generations removed from its source material.

There's a clever idea here for a fantasy-thriller, in which a bright high-schooler on the verge of graduation finds himself a ghost in his own life. This should open the way for the kid to see his life and the lives of others for what they truly are rather than what he imagines them to be. But the drama never comes together in a smart, meaningful way; indeed, most revelations border on the banal. And thriller elements come up empty since the youngster -- and audience -- knows who "killed" him.

The film is not as bad as the Walt Disney Co. apparently thinks. (The studio declined to screen the film for critics before it opened Friday.) But it's not very good, either. The film could appeal to young audiences but won't cross over to slightly older audiences because it lacks the crisp imagination of those other out-of-body movies "The Sixth Sense" and "Ghost."

The film establishes Nick (Justin Chatwin, very good), an intelligent, sensitive yet troubled youth. He lives with his mother (Marcia Gay Harden) in a starkly modern suburban Seattle home. She has been cold and indifferent to him since the death of his father several years before, refusing even to consider his desire for a writing career.

Meanwhile, best friend Pete (Chris Marquette) gets stolen goods from school tough girl Annie (Margarita Levieva in a terrific first starring role). An intriguing dynamic exists between Nick and Annie, a mix of mutual attraction and disdain. Then Annie mistakenly -- and illogically -- believes Nick ratted her out to police in a smash-and-grab robbery. She and her bully companions drag Nick into the woods one night for a beating that leaves him lifeless.

The next morning, apparently unharmed, Nick returns to school. But no one sees or hears him, and he discovers there is a manhunt for him. He figures he must be a ghost. Then an incident with a dying bird causes him to realize he is not completely dead yet: His body is suspended in a kind of limbo, but unless it is soon discovered, he will die for real.

As he materializes invisibly in his mother's home, Annie's hangouts and Pete's frightened life, he sees what has eluded his living self. This is especially true of Annie, who is as invisible metaphorically to people as Nick is physically. Yet writers Mick Davis and Christine Roum and director David S. Goyer don't allow these revelations to have much dramatic impact.

Then there is the foolishness: Although he knows no one can hear him, Nick somehow thinks that if he screams they will. In scene after scene. Nor is there any real motive for Pete, as much a victim of the bullies as Nick, to participate in their cover-up. The relationships among Annie, her dad (Mark Houghton), her dead-end, ex-con boyfriend (Alex O'Loughlin) and the lead police detective (Callum Keith Rennie) all reek of contrivance. Finally, the dialogue often falls short. "Oh my God, this is a nightmare" doesn't really express what a person must feel upon discovering he is dead.

Tech credits are decent, but the feeling persists that this one got away.

Buena Vista Pictures
Hollywood Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment present a Birnbaum/Barber/Macariedelstein production in association with Sonet Film Ab
Director: David S. Goyer
Screenwriters: Mick Davis, Christine Roum
Based on a novel by Mats Wahl and the Swedish film
Producers: Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber, Jonathan Glickman, Neal Edelstein, Mike Macari
Executive producers: William S. Beasley, Peter Possne
Director of photography: Gabriel Beristain
Production designer: Carlos Barbosa
Music: Marco Baltrami
Co-producers: Erin Stam, Rebekah Rudd
Costume designer: Tish Monaghan
Editor: Conrad Smart
Nick Powell: Justin Chatwin
Annie Newton: Margarita Levieva
Diane Powell: Marcia Gay Harden
Pete Egan: Chris Marquette
Detective Larson: Callum Keith Rennie
Detective Tunney: Michelle Harrison
Running time -- 101 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13