© 2007 Ray Wong
Unabashedly marketed as a teen version of Rear Window, D.J Caruso's new film, starring Shia LaBeouf, modernizes Hitchcock's masterpiece with today's MTV sensibilities.
After his father was killed in an accident, Kale (LaBeouf) becomes moody and disinterested in everything. An assault on a Spanish teacher results a house arrest, and Kale is stuck at his house for three long summer months. Bored out of his skull, he starts to spy on his neighbors with his binoculars and video cameras. First, it's just fun and curiosity, especially when he starts watching a new neighbor, beautiful Ashley (Roemer). When Ashley confronts him, he realizes she doesn't really mind.
Then he begins to suspect his next-door neighbor, Mr. Turner (Morse), as a murderer. Women have been missing around town, and Turner's hotrod matches the cop's descriptions. Suspicion leads to investigations. His friend Ronnie joins him and Ashley in their "stakeout." Weird things happen at Turner's house, and Kale wants to get to the bottom of it. But Kale is such a clumsy spy that soon Turner catches on. It becomes a game of cat and mouse.
Shia LaBeouf (Bobby) handles his role rather blandly. He practically plays himself. His character is not entirely likable, either, and there are times when I just want to scream: "Get a hold of yourself and don't be so stupid." It may not be completely LaBeouf's fault but he lacks certain charisma to pull off the clumsy, irritable role. Sarah Roemer (The Grudge 2) is beautiful and sexy, but she merely plays a sex object with not much subtlety either in her character or her performance.
Carrie-Anne Moss (Fido) is mostly wasted here, playing a concerned, clueless mom. She and LaBeouf are more like big sister and little brother than mother and son. Moss is great playing stronger women (who can forget her in the Matrix series?) but she's reduced to a helpless lump here. David Morse (Hounddog) has a better time playing the bad guy. His steely and intense stares are unnerving. It's an obvious, villainous role -- no subtlety required. But Morse manages to get some oomph out of the two-dimensional character.
Matt Craven (Deja Vu) has a brief role as Kale's hapless father. His relationship with Kale seems the most genuine; unfortunately, that doesn't last long. Jose Pablo Cantillo (Bones) plays a cop with a personal vendetta against Kale, but his motivation rides on rather thin ice; he's a police officer, after all. The standout is Aaron Yoo (Rocket Science) as Kale's goofy friend, Ronnie. The guy is so animated and likable that he steals every scene from LaBeouf.
The script by Christopher B. Landon (Boys Life 3) and Carl Ellsworth (Red Eye) begins well: nice premise, promising introduction and just enough tension to get us hook. Then it turns into some kind of drawn-out romantic comedy. Boy and girl meet cute, with some lovey dovey banters. But even that doesn't go deep enough to make us really care. At least James Stewart and Grace Kelly made us care in Rear Window. The only saving grace is Aaron Yoo's comic relief and the promise of something tense coming our way. It doesn't quite disappoint, though, as Mr. Turner starts to turn up everywhere. The plot picks up again nicely with great tension. Then the climax becomes extremely irritating to watch -- the characters are so naive and foolish that you just want to scream. There are so many plot holes and inconsistency, leading to a climax that is both predictable and ridiculous.
If the writers' aspiration is Rear Window, then they've really missed the boat. The Alfred Hitchcock classic is poignant, suspenseful, witty, and subtle, with two of the most charismatic actors sharing an immense chemistry together. It's not the case with Disburbia. Nothing is subtle in this production, and the plot feels forced. The characters are two-dimensional, and the ending is ridiculous.
Director D.J. Caruso (Two for the Money) does manage to put some energy into the film. His choice of camera angles can be interesting. Many times, though, the images are too dim to make out of what is going on on screen. There are some tense moments that are handled well. But once the final mayhem begins, the film quickly sinks into yet another mindless Hollywood thriller, complete with the villain's monologuing (oh, come on, will the bad guy just kill them already?) and a ridiculous hide-and-seek. The film loses its credibility, and that's the most disturbing thing about this teen thriller that starts well but ends flat.
Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Sarah Roemer, Carrie-Anne Moss, David Morse, Aaron Yoo, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Matt Craven
Director: D.J. Caruso
Writers: Christopher B. Landon, Carl Ellsworth
Distributor: DreamWorks SKG
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for terror and violence, some sexuality
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Script – 6
Performance – 6
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 7
Production – 7
Total – 6.7 out of 10