It's a not-so-wonderful life

The Invisible

on April 27, 2007 by Chad Greene

It doesn't bode well for a film when a plate of bacon and eggs is more expressive than the lead actor.

In the second scene of The Invisible , turgid teen Nick Powell (Justin Chatwin) reacts to his mother's refusal to pay for him to attend an expensive writer's course in London by turning the bacon-strip smile below the sunny-side-up peepers on his breakfast plate upside down. That's a range of emotion that Chatwin, last seen onscreen in 2005's War of the Worlds , could only aspire to.

Granted, his character spends most of the movie as a disembodied spirit stranded somewhere between life and death, but someone should seriously check this kid's pulse. His reaction to realizing that he has a chance to live again by leading rescuers to his broken body before it's too late? A monotone, “Shit, I'm alive.”

Think of The Invisible as It's a Not-So-Wonderful Life : As in the Frank Capra classic, there's no mystery as to who has gotten the protagonist into this mess. Basically, all he does is slouch around and see and hear—while unseen and unheard himself—what the people closest to him think about him.

Which isn't much.

His mother (Marcia Gay Harden) can't tell detectives “who [her] son is, really.” His girlfriend (Tania Saulnier) dismisses the wannabe writer as “pretentious.” His best bud sells him out to the teenage thug (Margarita Levieva) who beat Nick into a coma, then cooperates in her cover-up to save his own ass.

In concept, all of this is supposed to be an on-the-nose metaphor for how teens feel, yes, Invisible —unseen and unheard, unable to affect anything around them. In execution, all it turns out to be is unspeakably boring.

A “thriller” with no mystery and no suspense whose doltish detective can't even track down his own soon-to-be-dead body, the only award The Invisible is likely to contend for is Cheesiest Use of a Death Cab for Cutie Song in a Teen Movie. Even a casual fan of the Seattle-based band can guess which one and groan along:

Love of mine, some day you will die
But I'll be close behind
I'll follow you into the dark…

If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark.

The irony is that anyone who ventures into the dark of a theater to watch The Invisible is going to have a hard time convincing anyone to follow.
Distributor: Buena Vista
Cast: Justin Chatwin, Margarita Levieva, Marcia Gay Harden and Chris Marquette
Director: David S. Goyer
Screenwriters: Mike Davis and Christine Roum
Producers: Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber, Jonathan Glickman, Neal Edelstein and Mike Macari
Genre: Supernatural thriller
Rating: PG-13 for violence, criminality, sensuality and language - all involving teen
Running time: 97 min.
Release date: April 27, 2007
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