The Invisible

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It’s no surprise that “The Invisible” is a remake of a Swedish film. There’s enough brooding and angst to fill 10 somber Scandinavian pictures. And these kids aren’t moping about falling in love or finding a date for the prom, either. It’s Death itself that haunts them!

The American version is set in Seattle, which has appropriately gray skies and a high incidence of disaffected youth. (Seattle is the American version of Sweden, I guess.) Nick Powell (Justin Chatwin) is a sensitive and sober high school senior who writes poetry in his spare time and sells essays for cash. He is scorned by his peers, ignored by his imperious mother (Marcia Gay Harden), and admired by his loser best friend Pete (Chris Marquette). His grades are high enough that it won’t matter if he blows off finals for a writing workshop in London, which he plans to attend without Mom’s consent.

Meanwhile, also working her fellow students for cash is Annie Newton (Margarita Levieva), a thuggish girl who provides cell phones and other necessaries at marked-up prices. She spends her evenings with her too-old-for-her boyfriend, Marcus (Alex O’Loughlin), acting as his lookout while he steals cars and commits other acts of thievery. Her dad (Mark Houghton) is a former cop who’s now an overworked security guard; her stepmother (Desiree Zurowski) is lazy and useless. Her little brother (Alex Ferris) is her only solace in this harsh, cruel world.

Through a tragic sequence of unfortunate events and misunderstandings, Nick winds up dead, his body discarded in the woods near his home. To his surprise, Nick finds himself awake the next morning, going about his school day as usual except that no one can see or hear him. He quickly ascertains that he’s a ghost (or something), and he watches in frustration as the local police search for him, unable to hear his directions as he tells them where his body is and who killed him.

The film has been mis-marketed as a thriller when it’s actually just a supernatural drama, directed by frequent writer and occasional director David S. Goyer (who scripted “Dark City” and the “Blade” movies). Goyer yanks the teen-angst chords like a pro, filling the soundtrack with guitar-laden emo anthems and positioning Nick and Annie both as forlorn, misunderstood anti-heroes. They’re the sort of characters you’d expect to see cutting themselves. How can the teen audience fail to identify with them?

The teen audience will have to ignore certain things about the screenplay (adapted by Mick Davis and Christine Roum from Mats Wahl’s novel “Den Osynlige”). The detective investigating Nick’s disappearance stumbles quite accidentally onto the crime scene, and turns out to be a lifelong friend of Annie’s family, too, which is not only an astounding coincidence but completely irrelevant. The fact that he knows Annie and her dad never proves to be useful, nor does Annie’s dad’s past career as a cop. Those extraneous plot threads ought to have been cut.

I’m confused by some of Pete’s actions, too, with regard to Nick’s disappearance. I don’t want to give anything away, but he seems very easily convinced that he ought to be quiet about what he knows, even though he has no reason not to go to the police.

Screenplay ineptitude and general mediocrity aside, it’s not bad as far as teen-crisis dramas go. It straddles the line between appealing to young audiences and flat-out pandering to them, and it sometimes falls onto the wrong side of that line. Yet it deserves credit for focusing on young people without being gratuitously violent or sexual.

C+ (1 hr., 37 min.; PG-13, moderate profanity, brief mild sexuality, a little violence.)

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