Hip Rear Window homage disturbed in last reel


on April 13, 2007 by Annlee Ellingson
The first release in what will be a breakout year for 20-year-old Shia LaBeouf (he'll also voice the lead in Surf's Up and star in Transformers ), Disturbia demonstrates a wit and intelligence that will make the young actor a favorite of teenage girls and cineastes alike. A contemporary remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, the film is likewise witty and intelligent — that is, until the final act, when it eschews the tension of an unreliable point of view for modern horror elements.

Tender opening moments of a father-son fly-fishing trip are abruptly interrupted by a car crash that injures Kale (LaBeouf) and kills his father. It's in the collision and its aftermath that director D.J. Caruso ( The Salton Sea ) distances the film from other teen scream fare. Although accidents have been rendered onscreen untold times before, this collision still manages to shock its audience, and Kale's discovery of his father's death, writ on his face, is devastating.

Cut to several months later, and this fun smart aleck has transformed into a brooding smart aleck who, after an altercation with a teacher, is sentenced to house arrest. His Xbox, iTunes and television privileges taken away, Kale turns his attention to the neighborhood, where he spies on the lovely new girl, Ashley (Sarah Roemer), who has moved in next door and a neighbor, Turner (David Morse), who, Kale grows convinced, is responsible for a string of killings being reported in the news.

The first two-thirds of the film are engaging due to characters who are authentically hip (Kale wears a Ramones t-shirt, listens to Afroman's “Because I Got High” and watches HDNet's Bikini Destinations ) and genuinely funny. Ringing particularly true is the kids' use of cell phones and other 21st-century technology in their amateur investigation. And especially amusing is when Kale, unable to attend the party Ashley is throwing next door, installs loudspeakers on the roof of his house to blare sappy music in a bid to drive the revelers away. Naturally, the elaborate sound system is routed through Kale's iPod.

But Disturbia is ultimately undone by sloppy storytelling during the film's climactic scenes, where Caruso and screenwriters Christopher Landon and Carl Ellsworth lose track of the antagonist as well as other peripheral characters. Moreover, ultimately there isn't a moment in which, presented with contrary evidence, Kale questions the veracity of his own conclusions. It's that lingering question that made Hitchcock's version an American classic — a height that, despite a promising beginning, this movie won't reach. Distributor: DreamWorks/Paramount
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Sarah Roemer, Carrie-Anne Moss and David Morse
Director: D.J. Caruso
Screenwriters: Christopher Landon and Carl Ellsworth
Producers: Joe Medjuck, E. Bennett Walsh and Jackie Marcus
Genre: Thriller
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of terror and violence and for some sensuality
Running time: 105 min.
Release date: April 13, 2007

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