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Disturbed by "Disturbia"
on August 12, 2007
Alfred Hitchcock just won't go away. It has been 30 years since Hitchcock directed his last film, "Family Plot", but his work still seems fresh and original as it continues to inspire young directors. In 2007 we have already had two Hitchcockian rip-offs, "Vacancy" and this film.
"Disturbia" follows Kale (Shia LaBeouf) who is sentenced to three months house arrest after hitting his Spanish teacher, after the teacher made insensitive remarks towards Kale's dad who passed away in a suspious car accident in which Kale was also part of.
Kale is about to go stir crazy after his mother, Julie (Carrie-Anne Moss) takes away his x-box, TV and itunes, now Kale may actually have to do something constructive! But don't worry, Kale is not going to fall for that, he creates a nice diversion for himself by spying on his neighbors who include a new family to the neighborhood and their very pretty daughter, Ashley (Sarah Roemer) as well as Mr. Turner (David Morse), whom Kale suspects is actually a serial killer responsible for the recent disappearances of several young girls.
Now if the idea of a person locked up in their house, spying on their neighbors and thinking they have unwittingly stumbled upon a murder scene reminds you of anything it should be Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window".
"Rear Window" has Jimmy Stewart as a wheel-chair bound photographer whom after spying on his neighbors thinks he has seen one of them kill their wife. Now, with the help of Grace Kelly and Thelma Ritter, the trio will try to solve the case the police seem to ignore.
I guess that makes Shia LaBeouf the Jimmy Stewart of this movie, Sarah Roemer is our Grace Kelly and LaBeouf's best friend in the movie, Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) is our Thelma Ritter. Of course the obviously fault with the film, when compared to the work of Hitchcock is, the movie isn't nearly as suspenseful or well crafted.
"Disturbia" suffers from two problems. Number one it goes for cheap scares. It follows the basic formula most thrillers follow and because of that it leads us to our second problem. The movie is predictable. We know Mr. Turner is going to be the killer and Kale was right all along if for any reason, does it seem logical for a movie to take us down this path, build up all this "suspense", devote so much time to this idea, and then suddenly it turns out not to be Mr. Turner? Also, what other suspects does Kale have? So, since all the chips are placed on Mr. Turner being the killer, it simply must be.
So okay, right now you are saying, well you know what moron, when I saw "Rear Window" I knew Raymond Bur was the killer. Here's the difference. Since we know how the film is going to turn out, the only thing which will keep our interest will be the characters. It's all we have left. Unless the film is smartly written and strongly acted we have no reason to continue watching. And that is where "Disturbia" goes wrong. I didn't care about these characters. Whether they live or die had no impact on me. I was never fully involved in what was going on.
Shia LaBeouf seems to be getting a lot of work lately. He has already created a persona for himself. In nearly every film he is in he plays the same character. The geeky, well meaning, loser who lust after the pretty girl who doesn't notice him. In his world he think he is cool, to the rest of us, he is out of touch. Watch him in "I, Robot" or "Transformers" and you will see what I mean. I'm not saying LaBeouf has no talent. He does, but just like any other actor, he needs a good script. His persona worked in other films, but here he doesn't seem compelling on-screen.
The rest of the cast actually out shines LaBeouf. Supporting players like Roemer and Yoo are far more interesting to watch. Yoo is given better jokes and Roemer is simply better looking than LaBeouf so my eyes tended to follow her more when the two were both in a scene together.
The film was directed by D.J. Caruso. Caruso is a good director. A few years ago he directed a Val Kilmer movie called "The Salton Sea". It was a truly great film. He followed it up with an Angelina Jolie thriller, "Taking Lives", which I didn't like. But Caruso has talent. He can direct a scene and know how to get the most from his characters as was the case with Kilmer and Jolie. But what hurts him here is the script. Carl Ellsworth co-wrote the film, and even he too has done better. He wrote the thriller "Red Eye" which worked much better. That film had interesting characters and had a few suspenseful moments.
"Disturbia" may have a nice look to some but really isn't a very engaging picture. The cast and director are both talented but there is little anyone could do with this weak script.
Bottom-line: An Alfred Hitchcock knock-off that isn't anywhere near as suspenseful as the master's films. Good cast and director but the weak script brings everything to a halt.