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Overall Rating
2.59

Awesome: 10.34%
Worth A Look: 3.45%
Average36.21%
Pretty Bad: 34.48%
Total Crap: 15.52%

6 reviews, 22 user ratings


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Disturbia
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Son Of A Hitch (And An Illegitimate One At That)"
1 stars

It would be easy to simply dismiss “Disturbia” as nothing more than an exceptionally blatant rip-off of “Rear Window” aimed squarely at undiscriminating teenagers and I suspect that many reviewers will do just that. However, to call it a rip-off of “Rear Window” would suggest that the “creators” of this smug and stupid enterprise had enough wit and taste to actually watch that Alfred Hitchcock classic at some point, if only to plunder it wholesale. Since wit and taste are two commodities not in evidence at any point in the film, I suspect that what really happened is that they simply overheard a couple of people talking about the greatness of “Rear Window” and simply took it from there. At least that is what the end result suggests–it uses the same basic premise as that earlier film but replaces the mordant wit, thoughtful psychological underpinnings and excruciating tension that Hitchcock brought to the party with a logically flawed screenplay, deeply unappealing characters and a final half-hour that throws any token stabs at building suspense out the window in order to provide one annoying “BOO!” moment after another of people jumping into the scene from just outside of the frame.

The film opens with a tranquil and idyllic prologue in which we see happy-go-lucky teener Kale (the increasingly ubiquitous Shia LaBeouf) on a fishing expedition with his beloved father (Matt Craven). It is a scene so tranquil and idyllic, in fact, that you may find yourself silently counting down the seconds until the arrival of the shocking even that is surely approaching–in this case, a massive multi-car smash-up that kills off dear old dad while simultaneously offering a big action setpiece that can be slipped into the trailer to make the film look bigger and badder than it actually is. One year later, Kale is now sullen and angst-filled troublemaker and when he punches out his Spanish teacher at the end of the school year for getting on his case, it is his third strike and he winds up being sentenced to three months of house arrest shackled to an ankle bracelet that brings out the cops the moment he steps outside of his yard. When his harried mom (Carrie-Anne Moss) increases the punishment by cancelling his iTunes and Xbox subscriptions, Kale can find only one means of staving off the boredom of home confinement–he grabs a pair of binoculars and begins spying on the neighbors. Lucky for him, his neighbors are far more interesting than yours or mine–one neighbor is having an affair with the cleaning lady, the new hottie next door, Ashley (Sarah Roemer) spends most of her free time lounging around the pool in a seemingly endless supply of skimpy bikinis and Mr. Turner (David Morse), the seemingly normal guy across the street (David Morse), appears to have the same kind of car that a local woman was seen entering before she mysteriously disappeared.<

Suspicious, Kale and wacky best pal Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) begin surveillance on Mr. Turner–at least when Ashley isn’t around to distract them–and they begin to suspect that he may actually be a serial killer. Eventually, Ashley joins in on the fun and one night, she and Kale see Mr. Turner bringing a woman back to his house and then chasing her around before the shades go down. When they see him dragging a suspicious-looking bag into the garage, they are convinced that he is indeed a murderer and go about trying to prove it–an idea that takes on greater importance when Turner, who is beginning to suspect that he is being watched, starts insinuating himself into the life of Kale’s mom. Needless to say, their big plan falls apart and when the cops arrive, it is Kale who winds up getting in trouble for violating the terms of his house arrest. At this point, even if you haven’t seen “Rear Window,” I am pretty sure that you can figure out where the story is headed–after all, it is highly doubtful that a teen-oriented film like this is going to end with the smarty-pants kid being completely wrong and the neighbor being 100% innocent, right?<

Like I indicated before, the plot is straight out of “Rear Window” (with chunks of Joe Dante’s woefully underrated “The Burbs” tossed in for good measure) but while screenwriters Christopher Landon and Carl Ellsworth and director D.J. Caruso (the auteur of such silliness as “The Salton Sea,” “Taking Lives” and “Two For The Money”) clearly know the words to that classic film, they simply don’t know the music. Although the earlier film did have a neat central premise for a hook, there was much more going on with the film–it worked as a fascinating exploration of the seductive and dangerous appeal of voyeurism (and, by extension, the seductive and dangerous appeal of moviegoing), a darkly funny look at the panic besetting a footloose-and-fancy-free male at the prospect of marrying and settling down (even if it is to someone resembling Grace Kelly at the peak of her beauty) and as a nifty technical exercise (the whole notion of creating a suspense thriller in which the hero is confined to one room and is therefore unable to take any direct action in the proceedings). The film also demonstrated Hitchcock’s brilliance at casting roles in such a way that the mere presence of a certain actor would serve as a shorthand way of getting the character across. Since James Stewart was the screen’s ideal American Everyman at the time, he was the perfect choice since he would still be likable enough for audiences to follow around even when he is indulging in his unsavory habit of spying on the neighbors. Since Grace Kelly was the kind of actress who managed to project a certain steely toughness beyond her blinding beauty, she was ideal for the role of the woman who will do anything to snag the man of her dreams–even sneak into the apartment of a suspected killer to search for clues. Even the casting of Raymond Burr as the murderer was a stroke of brilliance–instead of being a suave ladykiller (literally), he came across as just an ordinary guy and as a result, viewers occasionally find themselves strangely identifying with him as well.

Needless to say, none of these elements are on display in “Disturbia”–instead, Caruso has thoughtfully replaced them with empty camera gymnastics, suspense-free suspense scenes and a screenplay in which no one seems to behave in a consistent manner from scene to scene (if we are to believe that Mr. Turner is indeed a diabolical killer who has been methodically murdering women for years, why would he suddenly begin doing his crimes in front of open windows for anyone to see?) before going completely off the rails with a finale that throws away even its meager efforts at building genuine tension for yet another climax in which bodies fall out of hiding places and seemingly serious injuries (such as a plunge from a staircase or a baseball bat to the head) are simply shrugged off as minor inconveniences. (And while we are at it, how is it that the cops can go through Mr. Turner’s house with a fine-tooth comb and find nothing while three dumb teeners can uncover secret torture chambers and piles of bodies in maybe five minutes flat?) As for the performances, none of them are particularly impressive–LaBeouf is actively annoying, Morse does the seemingly rational psycho schtick that he has offered us in too many previous films to mention, Roemer makes virtually no impression unless she is in her bathing suit and Carrie-Anne Moss is stuck in the kind of nothing “Mom” role that you might have thought she would never have to stoop to accepting in the wake of her ass-kicking work in “The Matrix”–and since there is no reason to care about the characters that they are playing, there is no reason to develop any working interest in what might happen to them as the story develops. In fact, despite all the huffing and puffing and bloodshed (though safely within the range of the all-important PG-13 rating), the only authentic moment of tension and panic that I could detect occurred when one character threatened to destroy the other’s iPod.

Some of you may find it amusing to learn that I am slamming “Disturbia” for being a bald-faced Hitchcock rip-off when I have often used this space to praise the work of Brian De Palma, a filmmaker who has been accused (not entirely without reason) of spending his entire career borrowing elements from the Master of Suspense. Yes, De Palma’s work does owe quite a bit to Hitchcock, it is more because he specializes in a genre that Hitchcock so thoroughly dominated that anyone working in it after him couldn’t possibly help but be influenced by him. The difference is that De Palma then takes those Hitchcockian ideas and filters them through his own specific and unique vision and the results are often spectacular. “Disturbia,” on the other hand, is more like a Xerox copy made on a decidedly inferior machine with the hopes that undiscerning audiences won’t notice or care about its shabbiness. This is a bummer because even though it was made more than a half-century ago, “Rear Window” is as fresh and thrilling to watch today as anything else currently in release while “Disturbia,” despite all of its oh-so-hip touches, is the kind of lifeless drag that viewers will be hard-pressed to remember even a month from now.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15556&reviewer=389
originally posted: 04/13/07 15:38:23
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/25/09 brian First hour is okay, then it turns into a slasher cliche fest with un-scary horror. 3 stars
3/08/09 SandySue Kept my attention all the way through. 3 stars
9/26/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome Cast!! 5 stars
8/21/08 PAUL SHORTT A SMART, EFFICIENT THRILLER THAT WEARS ITS HEREDITY PROUDLY 3 stars
6/06/08 TreeTiger Crap, crap, crap..! 1 stars
1/09/08 Who's your daddy? Fun movie - all you slammers relax abit 4 stars
11/16/07 R.W.Welch Rear Window light. Has teen appeal but is too contrived. 3 stars
10/28/07 Joe Smaltz draged on for the first hour and a half, but picked up during the last few minutes. 3 stars
9/25/07 Beau took to long for suspense and scary scenes to appear! herendous dialogue, a so so movie 3 stars
9/23/07 your mom THIS FILM IS AWSOME!!! GO SEE IT! 5 stars
9/19/07 Roman You guys are dumb, Shia's prformance in Disturbia brought him up to the top, 5 stars
9/17/07 Indrid Cold The fact that Carrie-Anne Moss is 40 years old is by far the scariest aspect of this movie. 3 stars
9/11/07 Jack ABSOLUTE SHOCKER, POOR POOR FILM, DO NOT GO AND SEE THIS! Shia Lebouef worst actor... EVER 1 stars
9/07/07 claudzx3 brilliant movie but very VERY scary 4 coz i saw it and i am like 12 lol 5 stars
9/04/07 faithly ridriguez i love it !!! the suspense was killin me... 5 stars
8/22/07 Double M Predictable - irrational move - predictable! still, fun parts. kids my age (20) may like it 3 stars
8/13/07 Wee Todd Didd Nothing special, didn't totally suck, but just so so 2 stars
7/08/07 Tom Servo You hear that...it's the sound of Hitchcock rolling in his grave-verdict= F 1 stars
5/17/07 Ole Man Bourbon Not much to it 3 stars
5/11/07 Tiffany Great Film 5 stars
4/30/07 Caiphn Boring, ridiculous dialogue, I walked out after 45 minutes. Avoid this. 2 stars
4/23/07 Courtney I heart this movie. At first I thought it was going to be retard. Go see it. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  13-Apr-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 07-Aug-2007

UK
  08-Jun-2007

Australia
  12-Apr-2007


Directed by
  D.J. Caruso

Written by
  Christopher Landon
  Carl Ellsworth

Cast
  Shia LaBeouf
  David Morse
  Sarah Roemer
  Carrie-Anne Moss



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