Writer-turned-director David S. Goyer's vapid remake of the Swedish DEN OSYNLIGE (2002) , which was unscreened for critics, is a textbook illustration of the American movie industry's ability to take an offbeat foreign film and systematically alter or soften every provocative and original thing about it.
Eighteen-year-old Nick Powell (a mopey Justin Chatwin) gets good grades, doesn't drink, do drugs, indulge in typical teenage hell-raising and has never, ever disobeyed the cold, widowed mother (Marcia Gay Harden) who's plotted out his shining future with the steely pragmatism of a five-star general. And he's desperately, suffocatingly unhappy; Nick wants to attend a writing program in London rather than go to college, and on the eve of his Burnaby Mountain High graduation, Nick has bought a plane ticket from the proceeds of his side business writing term papers for lazy jocks. Still incapable of openly defying dragon-mom, Nick tells only his spineless best friend, Pete (Chris Marquette), that he plans to sneak off to the airport that very night. And then everything goes wrong: Mom finds the ticket and lays on a world-class helping of "what have I done to deserve this" guilt while Pete, who's run afoul of high-school hellcat Annie Newton (Margarita Levieva), an underprivileged delinquent who dabbles in stolen goods and ultra-violence, fingers Nick as the squealer who turned her in to the police. It was actually Annie's boyfriend, parolee Marcus (Alex O'Loughlin), but Pete doesn't know that and figures Nick is out of harm's way. Unfortunately, he's wrong; devastated by mom's emotional blackmail, Nick blew off his escape plan and is abducted by Annie and her bully boys, who beat him with an inch of his life and dump him in a wooded drainage culvert to die.
Nick awakes the next day a ghost, condemned to wander unseen and unheard among his classmates, family and the police investigating his disappearance. Except that he's not actually a ghost at all, but an unmoored soul trapped in a limbo that will end when Nick's battered but not-quite-dead flesh finally gives out. If he were to be found and treated, body and soul might be reunited and Nick's sadly truncated future reclaimed. The trouble is that the only person who seems to sense his presence is the sullen, deeply damaged Annie, the last person in the world who's going to help him.
Where DEN OSYNLIGE was a downbeat story of cruel, capricious fate and hard, haunting choices, THE INVISIBLE is a formulaic tale of redemption and teen angst. Annie, who isn't as tough as she seems, seizes the opportunity to do one good thing with her wasted life, Mrs. Powell reveals a soft side, bullied Pete gets a second chance and spiteful Marcus reaps what he's sown. No surprises, no food for thought and really, no reason to bother. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh