Disturbia (2007)

Very Good

Content written by Tony Macklin. Originally published on April 26, 2007 in Fayetteville Free Weekly.

"Disturbia" is a well-made, very entertaining thriller.

It shouldn't be. Reflecting Alfred Hitchcock, it should be just another in a long line of Hitch wannabe retreads.

But it's much better than that. "Disturbia" -- a contrivance of Surburbia -- is an awful title. It might be titled "Rear Windowia."

"Disturbia" has the same setup as Hitchcock's "Rear Window" -- a male confined to his house who becomes a voyeur and sees a neighbor whom he thinks is a murderer. A deadly battle of wits ensues.

Shia LaBoef takes the Jimmy Stewart role. LaBoef portrays Kale Brecht who is placed under house arrest after he punches his Spanish teacher.

Kale can't leave the premises because he has an electronic anklet which will go off and bring the police if he does. Stewart's character, Jefferies, was immobilized with a cast on his broken leg.

There's a clever scene in "Disturbia" in which Kale desperately scratches the itch, which the anklet caused, as Jeff scratched under his cast.

"Disturbia" uses many of Hitch's themes -- voyeurism, paranoia, claustrophrobia, invasion of privacy, isolation, and eyes that misperceive -- but it brings them into the 21st century.

While "Rear Window" emphasized a long-range camera, "Disturbia" is set in a world of technology that wasn't known in 1954.

"Disturbia" has cell phone cameras, garage door openers, cable TV porn -- Hitch would have had fun with that -- electronic barriers, Itunes and X-boxes. It is a world of easy access and easy surveillance.

"Disturbia" works so well because it has believable actors, proficient direction, and a smart script. 2007 seems to be the year of the young actor.

26-year-old Joseph Gordon-Levitt was terrific in "The Lookout," and 20-year-old Shia LaBoef is terrific in "Disturbia."

One is a little fearful that LaBoef recently may have fallen under the sway of explosion-happy director Michael Bay in "The Transformers," but that fear is somewhat allayed by the fact that LaBoef also will be directed by Steven Spielberg in the coming Indiana Jones sequel.

LaBoef is Every-boy coming into manhood. And like Jimmy Stewart, LaBoef has a semi-dark side. Thank goodness both Gordon-Levitt and LaBoef have avoided cliche-ridden bed hair. So far they both have been their own independent young men. May they prevail.

In "Disturbia," Sarah Roemer fetchingly portrays Ashley, the new girl next door. Carrie-Anne Moss takes a well-earned break from the Matrix films, as Kale's well-meaning mom.

As LaBoef excels, he needs an accomplished actor as his adversary. David Morse, as Mr. Turner, may be the best villain since Anthony Hopkins played Hannibal Lector in "The Silence of the Lambs."

Morse's quiet malevolence and sinister serenity are potently chilling.

One key to Hitch's success was he was able to get his audiences to suspend their disbelief and just go along for wild, suspenseful rides.

Director D.J. Caruso did not earn suspension of disbelief when he directed the contrived, hackneyed "Two for the Money." But in "Disturbia," I think, he does.

There are a lot of Hitchcockian touches in "Disturbia," but what happens to one of the victims makes no sense.

Hitch once told me, "Logic is dull." So maybe Caruso is just following the master.

Where Caruso fails to emulate Hitch is in his cheesy use of lightning and thunder to try to emphasize the suspense.

The screenplay of "Disturbia" by Christopher Landon and Carl Ellsworth probably will be underrated, but it's savvy, although surprisingly the ending is very ordinary and perfunctory.

In "Disturbia," teenagers are smart. They read!

Kale notes that Ashley reads, "substantial books."

His Asian buddy Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) says, "I read a lot." Kale's speech to Ashley about her character is a moving tribute to intelligence and independence.

The teens are intelligent, and their adversary is clever. The overall intelligence of the movie lifts "Disturbia" up a grade.

"Disturbia" is interesting homage. But I knew Hitch, and Caruso is no Hitch.

However, in "Disturbia" he's pretty effective at honoring the master.


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