Domestic Disturbance

2001, PG-13, 88 min. Directed by Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes. Starring Ian Richardson, Jason Flemyng, Byron Fear, Katrin Cartlidge, Joanna Page, Paul Rhys, Robbie Coltrane, Ian Holm, Heather Graham, Johnny Depp.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Nov. 2, 2001

It's likely there's going to be some “viewer disturbance” going on after audiences catch a whiff of this routine and thrill-less suspenser. A child in peril always provides good subject matter for Tinseltown nail-biters, and Domestic Disturbance has that base covered, in addition to being loaded down with some of the postmodern attributes of a male melodrama. You see, everything in Frank (Travolta) and Susan's (Polo) divorce is going fine, except for the occasional acting-out of their 12-year-old son, Danny (O'Leary). But when Susan remarries, Danny's childish infractions begin to catch up with him, so that when he finally runs away and tells a story about his new stepfather (Vaughn) having murdered a man, no one is inclined to believe him. Too bad … because even though his new stepfather has bamboozled the whole town into believing he is handsome, rich, and likable -- real Chamber of Commerce man-of-the-year material -- we know what Danny also knows: His stepfather is Vince Vaughn, and when Vaughn's not chumming around with his pal Jon Favreau and playing onscreen dim bulb to Favreau's bright light, Vaughn is cutting a swath through Hollywood as the sicko “It Boy” of the moment. Thus, the menace he poses in Domestic Disturbance comes as no surprise to the audience and, furthermore, any anticipation of sparks cast by hot testosterone conflicts between Travolta and Vaughn are also dead in the water. Here, Travolta is in his lumpen-prol mode rather than his flamboyant loose-cannon mode, which makes for dull and predictable dynamics between these two male leads. This lack of sizzle is even more disappointing coming from the director who previously gave us the top-notch thriller Sea of Love. The only one who emerges unscathed from this acting quagmire is Matt O'Leary, whose believability as the intelligent, troubled, fearful, and brave young man carries the story's emotional weight. Buscemi, as usual, delineates a pathetically seedy character, at once repulsive yet endearing. But his character disappears from the action early in the game. Domestic Disturbance works best as a cautionary tale for divorced dads: Be careful should your ex-wife choose to remarry, because it's likely that whither she goest, so goest your kids. In these modern times, evil stepfathers have achieved narrative parity with evil stepmothers.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Albert Hughes Films
The first-ever boy and his dog story

Matthew Monagle, Aug. 17, 2018

The Book of Eli
In a post-apocalyptic time, Denzel Washington is the lone man who carries the world's last remaining Bible.

Marc Savlov, Jan. 22, 2010

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Story of America's itinerant population wanders too much

Feb. 19, 2021

The Reason I Jump
Poetic insight into autism, based on Naoki Higashida memoir

Jan. 8, 2021


Domestic Disturbance, Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes, Ian Richardson, Jason Flemyng, Byron Fear, Katrin Cartlidge, Joanna Page, Paul Rhys, Robbie Coltrane, Ian Holm, Heather Graham, Johnny Depp

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle