Disturbia – ✩✩✩ & ½✩ ( out of ✩✩✩✩✩ )
Well, here’s a pleasant surprise. When I learned of this new teenage retelling of Alfred Hitchcock‘s Rear Window, I’ll admit, I groaned. The film isn’t on the level of Hitchcock’s original, but it does all right on its own. The structure of a teen, who might be more susceptible to wild imaginings, under house arrest (explaining why he can’t leave or investigate what he sees) makes for some compelling, if sometimes silly, movie watching – even if it does give away it’s secrets a little too easily.
Troubled teen Kale (Shia LaBeouf) gets house arrest after punching his teacher in the face. Kale’s life has been downward spiraling ever since his father was killed in an automotive accident where Kale was driving. As added punishment his mother (Carrie-Anne Moss) cuts off his television and Internet gaming options – harsh! Now forced to stay within the limits of his home, Kale begins to watch his neighbors. As he looks over the neighborhood two in particular grab his attention.
The first is the daughter of family who has just moved from the city into suburbia. Ashley (Sarah Roemer) is beautiful, smart, and troubled – the perfect woman for Kale to obsess about. His stalking leads to a friendship and possibly more between the two as they both become fascinated with the second subject of Kale’s attention.
Mr. Turner (David Morse) is a bachelor who Kale begins to believe might just be involved in a series of killings. Although the evidence he uncovers is all circumstantial Kale can’t shake the feeling that there’s something malignant and evil living next door.
Together with Ashley and his best friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) who both act as his eyes and ears outside of the house, Kale begins to look deeper into Mr. Turner and learns his suspicions may be well founded.
The film borrows its basic plot from Rear Window involving the twin stories of watching a potential killer who lives next door and dealing with a love story. Roemer isn’t Grace Kelly, but then who is? Still she provides a much needed spark to the film, although the scene of the two getting together romantically is perhaps the creepiest of the entire film – and one I had more than a little trouble buying.
LaBeouf is asked to carry the film and does a fine job in presenting the many different sides of the completely screwed-up Kale. Moss, Morse, Yoo, and Viola Davis as a police detective all provide some good supporting performances.
The film’s main flaw, and one that I think says quite a bit about today’s filmmakers, is it gives away too much too soon. Only in the final moments of Rear Window does Jimmy Stewart learn the absolute truth and come face-to-face with the killer. The whole film is a slow build to one great climax.
Here the truth is gleaned much earlier and so the film’s second half changes into more of a slasher/thriller adventure (with all the inherent absurdity) than is necessary. Even with this basic flaw the film is better than I thought it would be, and those who haven’t seen Hitchcock’s classic will probably even enjoy it more than I did. Disturbia is an interesting remake where the story was changed enough to create something completely different, and even with some obvious flaws it’s still worth a trip to the theater.
Disturbia (3 & ½ out of 5 Stars) is Rated PG-13 on appeal (originally Rated R) for sequences of terror and violence and some sexuality, with a running time of 104 minutes.