Wed July 31, 2002
"Signs" is a cautionary tale about believing in powers greater than ourselves whose signs are all around us...
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"Signs," directed by M. Night Shyamalan of "The Sixth Sense" and starring Mel Gibson, echoes "War of the Worlds," "Field of Dreams," and numerous "B" Sci-Fi's whose message about fate and faith is more important even than scaring the bejesus out of us.
The film emphasizes Gibson's character's loss of faith and rejection of his role as a priest after his wife's tragic death. The titular "signs" are formations in the cornfields apparently made by aliens as coordinates for an invasion. Those familiar with Erik von Daniken's "Chariots of the Gods" will be in familiar territory; those who liked the mystical crop field of "Field of Dreams" will recognize its father-and-son reconciliation theme and its declaration that faith is a commodity in short supply.
Mel Gibson underplays effectively while Joaquin Phoenix and Rory Culkin support with intensely-felt connections to their brother and father respectively. The first half of the film is suspenseful distributed exposition slowly leading to clarity about what the aliens are doing and what adjustments Gibson's character must make to deal with them and his family. The film 's conclusion reverts to some standard sci-fi hokum meant to resolve an otherwise impossible situation for a writer.
"Signs" is a cautionary tale about believing in powers greater than ourselves whose signs are all around us; it also asks us to understand the cooperative nature of survival, the bonds of humanity that transcend cynicism and doubt. This is a likeable film suitable for everyone at the end of a hot summer-as soon as we can get those corn crops in the sooner we can forget the lessons etched in their signs.
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time" and vice chairs the board of The Film Council of Greater Columbus.