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Film review: ‘Airbender’ is hardly watchable

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THE LAST AIRBENDER — ★1/2 — Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Dev Patel; shown in 2-D and 3-D; rated PG (violence); in general release

There's no other way to say this: M. Night Shyamalan has completely lost it.

As "The Last Airbender" proves, the once-beloved maker of "The Sixth Sense" is now unable to direct anything featuring coherent plotting, competent performances and genuine thrills.

While his live-action adaptation of the popular animated series is a slight improvement on his laughable awful 2008 fable "The Happening," it's still not good.

Also, be warned that, like the recent "Clash of the Titans" remake, this film was not shot with 3-D effects cameras, though it is being shown in that format. The 3-D conversion process used here distorts the computer-generated imagery.

The title character is Aang (Noah Ringer), the only surviving member of the Air Kingdom.

The boy has lost his memory but has been found by Water Tribe members Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone), who have offered him shelter.

They believe he may be the long-prophesied "Avatar" — a being with the ability to command all four elements — and that he can bring peace to the world.

But he's being pursued by members of the Fire Nation, including Zuko (Dev Patel), a rebellious prince who hopes to use Aang to gain power.

Newcomer Ringer gives an awful performance that recalls fellow child actor Jake Lloyd's irksome turn in "Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace."

He shouldn't be singled out, though, since Peltz is similarly wooden and "Slumdog Millionaire" star Patel appears to regret his decision to replace the Jesse McCartney, who was originally cast in the role.

And besides, they and the rest of their cast members are forced to read Shyamalan's expository, mind-numbingly terrible dialogue.

"The Last Airbender" is rated PG for violent action and imagery (elemental attacks, martial-arts battles, fiery and explosive mayhem, as well as violence against women and children). Running time: 103 minutes.

e-mail: jeff@desnews.com