2007, PG-13, 104 min. Directed by D.J. Caruso. Starring Shia LaBeouf, David Morse, Sarah Roemer, Carrie-Anne Moss, Aaron Yoo, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Viola Davis, Matt Craven.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 13, 2007
Up-and-comer LaBeouf (Holes) is a young actor to watch, but he’s had better opportunities than this teen thriller to show what he’s capable of. Resembling, without copying, the voyeuristic storyline of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Disturbia also brings to mind other techno-thrillers like Coppola’s The Conversation or fear-of-neighbors comedies like Joe Dante’s The ’burbs. In Disturbia, LaBeouf plays Kale, a smart kid who winds up under house arrest for the summer because of an impulsive action, which is treated generously because of mitigating factors (his dad dies in an excellent precredits sequence). Mom (Moss) is always working, so Kale is generally home alone – and bored. Eventually, he discovers the indoor sport of spying on the neighbors through binoculars. This activity gets him up close and personal with the girl who just moved in next door (Roemer) and arouses his suspicions about the man who lives by himself (Morse) across the way. Nearly an hour of film time passes before anything suspenseful happens, which is way too long for us to remain primarily focused on teen lassitude. Once the commotion hits, it barrels ahead with an ugly forcefulness that reminds us that Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and the BTK killer were all also somebody’s neighbors. The always effective Morse is also underserved by Disturbia’s script (by Christopher B. Landon and Carl Ellsworth), which requires little more of him than to walk a steady line between creepy and respectable. The one notable aspect of the story is the modern integration of desktop technology to unravel its tale. With computers, walkie-talkies, designer cell-phone rings, and the like, the film makes good use of the technology available at the average teen’s fingertips. No matter that some of the details don’t make sense if you stop to think about them. (A trimmer edit of the film might have helped forestall the appearance of nagging questions.) Disturbia, which screened during SXSW, ultimately seems like something of a missed opportunity.