Intriguing offbeat item, The Happening attempts to blend various elements of kick-happy teeny-boppers, melodrama, pop culture, suburban tragedy, suspense, ‘in’ gags, ‘black humor’, Keystone Kops, ‘beach party’ pix, and alienation in the affluent society in a comedic potpourri, which, between expected laughs, seeks to offer satiric peeks at US life and values.
Well-tempered plotline [by James D. Buchanan and Ronald Austin], with several corkscrew twists, follows the weekend hegira of four ennui-laden but debauched Miami beachbums in search of some potent stimuli. They find it, albeit accidentally, by stumbling into an unlikely kidnapping.
What is bothersome about this tragi-farce is why it doesn’t succeed, with all of the above and generally capable performers, going for it. George Maharis, playing a bull without horns, is spotty but fine, alternating swagger with weakness in his impersonation of a gigolo, while Michael Parks is less convincing but appropriately faceless as a blank-faced rich kid. Newcomer Faye Dunaway, though stunning to view and essaying her role with elan, is too womanly seductive for a teenybopper role.