Sunday, April 22, 2007

Disturbia

Although the official web site never explicitly states that Disturbia is a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 classic Rear Window, that's pretty much what it is. The screenwriters (who also worked on 2005's Red Eye) stayed true to the Hitchcock feel of the movie while keeping it interesting for the attention span-impaired audiences of today.


As of April 23rd, the movie is leading the box office for the second week in a row. It's easy to see why. Shia LaBeouf is so dang likeable, you can't help but pull for him. He plays Kale, a high school kid on house arrest for punching his Spanish teacher in the face. (I'd explain why, but it would give away the incredibly powerful opening scene of the film.) Relegated to within 100 feet of his house by an ankle tracking device, the cops arrive on scene if Kale breaks the barrier. To keep himself occupied, he begins spying on his neighbors and discovers some interesting drama around him - nothing of more interest than the hot new girl next door, Ashley (played by Sarah Roemes). But when Kale, his friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo), and Ashley discover a neighbor who just might be a serial killer, things get a little more interesting.

Aside from its Hitchcockian similarites, the movie was really nothing more than an acting vehicle for Shia LaBeouf, who deservedly is on the rise as one of the Hollywood's most talented young actors. The kid has a natural charm that you can't help but like...you know the type - girls want to be with him, guys want to be him. He plays the role of Kale with ease, switching between funny and serious tones when necessary. David Morse was excellent as the eerie neighbor. If this guy wasn't cast, then Disturbia would have been pretty average. His sinister looks and commanding presence kicked the movie to another level. Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity from the Matrix series) played Kale's mom, but her performance was so lackluster that it was interchangeable with any other actress in the necessary age range. Sarah Roemes did a fairly competent job with the girl next door character. There's no way that her character would have reacted the way she did if she was a real person, but that's no fault of Sarah's - that's the screenwriter's blunder. Even with some ridiculous situations (Kale's balcony speech), a questionable premise (house arrest? Come on...), and some improbable coincidences (the cop being the cousin of the Spanish teacher), Disturbia accomplished its goal.

To avoid being a straight up "remake" of Rear Window, the writers had to update the script accordingly. Disturbia relies on technologically proficient heroes who utilize video cameras to spy on their neighbors, unlike the binocular/zoom lens-bound Jimmy Stewart from the original. The suspense in both films was awesome, and the whole vibe transferred well to movie screens in 2007. The filmmakers did a superb job driving the tension to its highest points in dark hallways and basements near the end of the film, and the climactic confrontation was expertly edited to attain maximum "on-the-edge-of-your-seat-edness."

Personally, I think the overall statement of the movie (It's not always terrible to spy on your neighbors - you may find something illegal happening) was more relevant to its McCarthy-era counterpart. But I can see why now was a good time to "remake" it - with post-9/11 tensions the way they are in America, the same rules can apply to today's society.

If you can get past a few coincidences and trivialities, I think you'll really enjoy Disturbia. Normally after I leave a theater I tend to concentrate on things that I didn't like about the movie, but this one left me thinking about the parts I did like. When a film succeeds in doing that, I know it's doing something right. Dare I say, Jimmy Stewart would be proud. Until next time...

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