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MAKING A 'SPLASH' OUT OF 'THE SHAPE OF WATER'

Year of Release: 2017 Wide Release/Reviewed: 2018
There's a burden lifted after searching Google following THE SHAPE OF WATER and typing in the film's title followed by 'is like SPLASH'... Right off the bat, an article's subject compares the similar aquatic-based fables of each film —  only with the genders switched...

WATER starts out in a dark, icky-green-lit military compound where an aquatic humanoid creature is trapped and tormented — and then befriends a young girl/employee, and that's exactly the kind of place SPLASH winds up... and ends pretty quickly thereafter while WATER remains stagnant until she's... or rather... he is rescued by, like SPLASH, an odd, flawed yet lovable group of endearing underdogs, who outsmart the tight-security military bad guys... or in this case... bad guy, singular...

Compare The End to the poster above
Michael Shannon, with the signature tough-chiseled mug of a 1930's Gangster Film Mob Boss's Chief Henchman, is, like most cinematic villains today, not judged solely on what his character says or does, but who he is. Taking place during the 1960's, he's a military white man, lives in the suburbs, is extremely racist, considers himself 'decent' and quotes from the Bible... All malevolent ingredients included!

While THE SHAPE OF WATER is promoted as a body-count creature feature, it's actually a loaded time-capsule romance teaching the new generation (or reminding the old one) that the 1960's were full of either racists, homophobes or their open-minded, non-judgmental victims. Meanwhile, THE HELP actress Octavia Spencer plays the kind of "funny black sidekick" that 90's throwback Jackée was once scoffed at for being a typecast female Stepin Fetchit, and not even as good...

ShapeScore: **
Even Michael Shannon refers to Spencer and mute leading lady ingenue Sally Hawkins as "the help." Plus there are a few more nostalgic inspirations herein: If FRANKENSTEIN had morphed THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and SWAMP THING into E.T. THE EXTRA "Messianic Healing" TERRESTRIAL, that would be the primal SHAPE here. But again, this WATER is practically a note-for-note (albeit only two notes) SPLASH reboot — there's even a Russian spy thrown in for good measure (much like the SPLASH Eugene Levy crooked-turned-nice guy) to add some Cold War "intrigue" into the mix — but there's little to no suspense, or reality. How quick and easily a female janitor can spend so much unsupervised time alone with the Top Secret mysteriously formidable yet much-too-quickly passive "alien" in the first place — who is, as usual, being used for nefariously political reasons...

Art Poster
And for the character-acting chops there's the usually dependable Richard Jenkins (our fun-loving SPLASH comic relief John Candy spot) as a cliché homosexual who watches old movies, mostly musicals, and... get this... In one extremely awkward scene, he makes a play for a young, energetic and attractive male pie-diner employee who he'd had his creepy old eyes on earlier... not what feminist superior Gloria Allred would rationalize as a "clumsy pass," but , grabbing the dude's hand and telling his intentions outright, the kid, shocked, pulls away and backs up (which should be understandable given the present-time climate where women don't like being treated the same way by aggressive straight males). But then, half a second later, the hit-on young man victim viciously throws a black family out of the restaurant!

Because of these kind of heavy-handed, overly-obvious political agendas there is rarely a story to carry out the plot or theme, which should offer, not force, a message — the tail no longer wags the dog, it is the dog. And for those who just want a "strange, different kind of love story," rewatch the original KING KONG. It's far more romantic, the "couple" has better chemistry, and it actually has a beginning, middle, and end.
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