Monday, January 28, 2008

"This is a lot harder than it looks on the Internet."

I've thought to myself a few times, what would I do if I had for some reason been put under house arrest? D.J. Caruso's 2007 thriller Disturbia answers this question while still managing to throw on the horror and suspense. Spending just enough time watching girls swim to keep you interested if the tried and true thrills fall short. This "hip" updating of the Hitchcock classic Rear Window(1956) does little more than just that, all the while still managing to entertain and keep its head above the water.

The story opens with a bang. The catalyst to the story is thrust in within the first 5 minutes of the film when a tragic event brings out the worst in Kale, a high school slacker who makes a mistake and gets put under house arrest for the entire summer. We see Kale deal with his boredom in many ways, very few of those ways please his mom who just wants him to gain some responsibility. At first he kills time by playing X-Box and watching television but when he has these things taken away because his mom doesn't want this to be "another vacation like usual" he starts watching out the window for entertainment. He picks up on the quirks and overall oddness of suburban life and before long he's showing his friend Ronnie, who seems to be his only connection with the world until he is caught spying by Ashley while she's swimming. She stops by and finds out just what he does all day and when the two of them stumble upon seeing a young lady go over to a neighbors house she is unsuspecting but after she goes home Kale sees exactly what he had thought he might, or did he?

Laced with traces of technology, paranoia and voyeurism Disturbia follows the typical Hollywood fare to the tee, while still adding some food for thought. When left alone to watch people how do you tell the difference between true stories and ones you've made up yourself? When no one is there to tell you that you didn't see something, than how do you know if anything you see is real? Kale tends to have trouble with this throughout the film. While thinking he has just seen a brunette be murdered he then sees her walk out to her car and drive off, is his mind playing tricks?

Characters mention Youtube and the Internet frequently, enough that it becomes a major component of the film. Could D.J. Caruso be telling us that by watching these videos on Youtube we are acting just as voyeuristic as Kale does in the movie? It seems to me the film is trying to make the statement that we are all people watchers. Most of us don't sit at our windows and watch our neighbors with a pair of binoculars in hand but we will mindlessly watch far stranger things than what lies behind the glass of our window. The thing is, these things are being done by our neighbors and us. So the only difference is we are cutting out the boredom by not waiting for something interesting to happen out our front door and cutting straight to the chase by people watching through our computer screen.

While the film might be trying to say this, it isn't saying it loud enough. It focuses to much time on making you jump than making any type of statement at all. While it is a popcorn movie, I will say I didn't mind it, it is a well crafted thriller and Shia LaBeouf is very likable and funny. There is a great scene where Ronny has broken into someones house to get something he had left behind earlier and we are only seeing Ronny through a camcorder he is carrying. By doing this it creates an element of suspense, while also eventually leading to a clue, and not explaining to us right away what exactly just happened.

On the flip side, the dialogue is very cardboard, as are the characters. They are very broadly written, even the "bad guy". This takes away from what could have been a smart update of a film that is already realized as a classic. A subplot involving a very doubtful and unbelievable love story does more to distract from what is good about this film than what it does to bring you deeper into the characters.

The film doesn't take a step away from exactly what you expect and does this on purpose. It really couldn't have been written any broader than it already is, and that's disappointing because there is a good movie buried in here. The films message gets caught up in the static of all that is the Hollywood storyline and while still being a well crafted and decently executed thriller all hope is lost on the film that could have been.


tmarie said...

I thought you did a nice job analyzing some unique themes on the film, such as your comments on the new technology and how we're all watching each other with intrigue. I agreed with your overall opinion with Disturbia, in that I enjoyed it, while not really thinking it was very good.

hop3less said...

Agreed, you did an excellent job analyzing the movie. It seemed that you took the stance that the movie is mere popcorn entertainment and stood by it, giving off specific examples.

TeenDisney said...

i love the movie disturbia, and ironically, i haven't really thought about what i'd do if i was under house arrest. The only thing about disturbia i hated was the girl- she annoyed me like to the UMPTH degree!
well, just wanted to say great blog, man!

thoffman said...

Your review was very well written an touches on every theme it should have. I like the intelligent perspective the review is written from, rather than the sarcastic bitter guy that I am.

TeenDisney said...

Hey, no problem! lol
Yeah the animated ones were pretty great =) Technology gets better and better, i mean, cinderella and snow white to toy story to nemo, to meet the robinsons? awesome!
And heavyweights? Me too! only i don't remember how old I was... =)
I just know i've seen it and loved it for ever haha
Thanks for the comments, hun!