Shymalan’s ‘The Visit’ a pleasant surprise

When I went to the movies this weekend to see M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Visit,” I wasn’t sure what to expect, considering his track record. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised.

Becca and Tyler are two teenaged siblings who just want their mom to be happy. The trouble is she can’t seem to allow that of herself. Loretta, the kids’ mom, has a few issues with her own parents. See, she left the house at the age of 19 to be with a much older man who would eventually become the kids’ father. Unfortunately, Loretta’s parents were right when they predicted the relationship wouldn’t work out. Embarrassed and stubborn, Loretta makes no attempt to include her parents in her children’s lives. Neither do her parents, until they reach out one day, offering to take the kids in for a week while Loretta vacations with her boyfriend.

Becca, a budding filmmaker, wants to create a documentary about the experience, hoping to mend the gaps in her family’s hearts as well as her own. She readily agrees to the visit. Tyler, a 13-year-old self-proclaimed rapper, just wants to keep the peace, even if it means a week away from his phone.

Loretta finally relents, allowing the kids to go, and all is well at first. Nana and Pop Pop are sweet, if a little distant in the beginning. Nana cooks like a pro and Pop Pop is ridiculously strong for a man his age. The kids warm up pretty quickly to their newfound family as Becca continues her movie-making endeavor in the hopes of finding out what exactly caused her mother to cut off contact with these people.

However, it doesn’t take long for things to take a turn for the bizarre. For instance, Nana and Pop Pop insist the kids stay in their room after 9:30 p.m. Becca, hungry for more of Nana’s excellent cookies and assuming the rule won’t apply if she only steps out for a moment, leaves the room anyway. She is greeted to the sight of Nana projectile vomiting while pacing the entryway. From there, Becca and Tyler come to realize just how strange their visit is going to get.

The best part about this movie is that, despite its out-there premise, it manages to be believable. This is mostly due to the great chemistry between its actors. Becca and Tyler, played by Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould, respectively, are a refreshing addition to the ranks of movie siblings who live only to torment each other. The great thing about these two is that, unlike most movie siblings, they actually behave like real kids. They bicker and tease each other, but they have each other’s backs. There are no unnecessary argument scenes that would only serve to take away from the plot. In short, they behave like actual siblings.

The other highlight of the movie is Nana herself, played by Deanna Dunagan. She perfectly balances the line between harmless old lady and Wicked Witch of the West. I don’t believe anyone else could have pulled off the line, “Would you mind getting inside the oven to clean it?” with such sincerity without bringing the movie into straight comedy territory.

Don’t get me wrong; the movie is funny. Tyler’s attempts at rapping, Becca’s pretentious film snob monologues, and Nana and Pop Pop’s more over-the-top scenes got laughs from everyone in the theater. As the girl behind me put it, “Grandma’s got no chill.”

Still, the movie manages to get laughs while still making the audience care about the characters. We want to see Becca and Tyler get what they want. We want to see Loretta happy.

Overall, Shyamalan did a wonderful job. This won’t make me forgive him for “The Happening,” but I won’t hold it against him too much.