CATEGORIES Thrillers, SXSW, Paramount, Theatrical Reviews, Dreamworks, Reviews, SXSW Film Festival, Cinematical
Slickly shot, generally well-acted, and entirely, predictably conventional from stem to stern is the new teen-friendly urban thriller Disturbia. It's the lamest movie of D.J. Caruso's directorial career, and it also stands to become his most profitable. (OK, Caruso's Taking Lives is equally forgettable, but I'm a big fan of The Salton Sea, plus I found Two for the Money to be more entertaining than most folks did.) Painfully "inspired" by flicks like Rear Window, Body Double, or any other thriller in which window-to-window voyeurism plays an important role, Disturbia delivers an entirely generic story, packs a strong lead performance by Shia LaBeaouf, and will vanish from your memory banks in less time than it took to buy the tickets. Even if you love the flick (which is highly unlikely), it'll still be forgotten in very short order.
The plot, quite literally, could not be simpler: A teenage boy under house arrest believes that his neighbor is a serial killer ... and nobody believes him. Skeptical Mom, Annoyed Cop, Goofy Best Friend, and Brand-New Hottie Next-Door all bounce around the periphery as Wolf-Crying Boy waits for The Nefarious Neighbor to do something nasty. And since that neighbor is played by the always-menacing David Morse, there's not much question as to his character's true intentions. (Casting directors generally don't go with David Morse when they're looking for someone to play "wrongfully accused.") It's all very rote and predictable and familiar, and by "all" I'm also including an atrocious third act that shoots for chills and delivers only muffled yawns.
The screenplay, which comes courtesy of Chris Landon (Another Day in Paradise) and Carl Ellsworth (Red Eye), is a half-baked amalgam of back-story silliness, first-act filler and occurrences that could be (charitably) described as paint-by-numbers. We go from a drearily tragic prologue to a genuinely drab set-up before settling in for a long road ahead with LaBeouf and his empty house. And once the (potentially) scary bits show up, you'll realize that the flick has less than fifteen minutes left to go ... and that's never a good feeling. If there's even half a surprise hidden somewhere within Disturbia, I'd love to know where it's been hidden.
The flick certainly looks handsome enough, and the young Mr. LaBeouf continues his streak of strong acting performances, but these assets are employed in service of a plot structure about as thrilling as wet paint. Mr. Morse contributes the quiet glower that's been effective in about 438 films, Carrie-Anne Moss (as Skeptical Mom) gets about four unmemorable scenes, and newcomer Sarah Roemer (a dead ringer for Jessica Biel's little sister) proves to be as aesthetically beautiful as her line deliveries are distressingly inert. Basically, Disturbia is about as exciting as a peanut butter sandwich; it's dry and somewhat easy to swallow, but pretty damn boring, too. Even the flick's target teen audience will be able to guess the content of scene 12 as scene 11 ambles across the screen.