Director : D.J. Caruso
Screenplay : Christopher Landon and Carl Ellsworth (story by Christopher Landon)
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2007
Stars : Shia LaBeouf (Kale), Sarah Roemer (Ashley), Carrie-Anne Moss (Julie), David Morse (Mr. Turner), Aaron Yoo (Ronnie), Jose Pablo Cantillo (Officer Gutierrez), Matt Craven (Daniel Brecht), Viola Davis (Detective Parker)
As far as teen-centric riffs on Hitchcock classics go, Disturbia is much better than it has any right to be. Part of the strength of D.J. Caruso's sometimes overdirected, but never-less-than-intriguing suburban thriller is its incessant focus on the role of technology in the lives of today's youth. Back in 1954, Jimmy Stewart's apartment-bound New Yorker L.B. Jeffries could content himself with binoculars and telephoto lenses, which he had on hand only because he happened to be a professional photographer. In 2007, Shia LaBeouf's Kale, a good-kid-turned-angry on house arrest for hitting a teacher, has the wonders of video cameras, Internet hookups, text messaging, and cell phones to fuel his voyeurism, an act that is, ironically enough, brought on by his mom (Carrie-Anne Moss) cutting off his iTunes and Xbox Live accounts.
Kale's voyeurism-as-boredom-cure covers his entire suburban street, at first uncovering little more than adultery and obsessive yard mowing. However, his sights are soon set on the cute, bikini-clad, and equally angsty new girl next door, Ashley (Sarah Roemer). Ashley is drawn over to Kale's side of the fence when she catches him peeping (a comment on our underlying desire to be the object of someone's gaze, perhaps?), and she joins Kale and his comic-relief buddy Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) in spying on Mr. Turner (David Morse), a reclusive neighbor whom Kale begins to suspect of being involved in the recent disappearance of a young woman.
It isn't hard to see where the story is going, and even though it dances neatly around the provocative idea that Kale's paranoia about murderous neighbors is all in his stir-crazy imagination (maybe it's a teenage Shining instead of a teenage Rear Window), anyone who's seen the previews knows that there's nasty stuff going on in the neighbor's basement and it's only a matter of time before the precocious kids start trespassing and discovering for themselves what Tom Hanks and his crew learned in Joe Dante's underrated satirical gem The 'burbs (1989). To his credit, Caruso milks as much out of the premise as he possibly can, and even when Christopher Landon and Carl Ellsworth's screenplay starts spiraling into too-familiar territory, he keeps it exciting and engaging without getting overly serious. In fact, once Kale finds the literal skeletons in the dank bowels of Mr. Turner's charming abode, it isn't hard to see the film as skirting with parody.
However, if Disturbia is remembered 10 years from now, it probably won't be because of its standing as a superior thriller, but rather as a dead-on portrait of the current teenage generation's obsession with media and media technology. This is never so pointed as when Kale responds to Ashley's threat to drop his iPod off the roof with “That's 60 gigs of my life!” Reducing life to gigabytes of downloaded iTunes is a perfect metaphor for teenage self-absorption, and it dovetails nicely with the film's voyeurism, which gives a great deal of play to gender roles and power relations. The film's best scenes involve Kale's gaze being turned back on himself, whether it be discovering Mr. Turner's icy stare back at him from across the street or Ashley busting him and Ronnie for looking, at which point they devolve from being masters of a controlling gaze to bumbling, panicky fools. In Disturbia, two can play at that game.
|Disturbia is available in both widescreen and full-screen editions.|
|Subtitles||English, French, Spanish|
|Distributor||DreamWorks Home Video|
|Release Date||August 7, 2007|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|Disturbia is presented in a crisp anamorphic widescreen transfer. Colors look good throughout, with realistic flesh tones and excellent saturation. The transfer holds up as well in the numerous night scenes, with solid black levels and decent shadow detail with no artifacting. The sun-flooded daytime scenes are appropriately bright and heavy with contrast. The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX soundtrack is likewise great, with ample use of the surround channels to create tension and give the music extra depth and dimensionality.|
|The screen-specific audio commentary by director D.J. Caruso and stars Shia LaBeouf and Sarah Roemer is generally informative, if a bit too laid back at times (Caruso receives a cell phone call from his wife during the first 10 minutes). They joke around quite a bit, making cracks about everything from Roemer's numerous bikini scenes to the fact that LaBeouf has to eat chicken during the commentary instead of the other junk good laid out for them because he's preparing for a secret role (Indiana Jones 4, no doubt). The 15-minute “The Making of Disturbia” featurette is a standard-issue making-of doc with plenty of behind-the-scenes footage both on location and on the soundstages where the interior sets were built, as well as interviews with Caruso, LaBeouf, Roemer, David Morse, Carrie-Anne Moss, writers Christopher Landon and Carl Ellsworth, producer Joe Medjuck, and production designer Tom Southwell. There are four deleted scenes (all in anamorphic widescreen, although they look like they were taken from a high-def video source, rather than film), three of which are scenes between Kale and his mom (no wonder their relationship feels a bit underdeveloped in the movie). The Serial Pursuit Pop-Up Quiz is a misnamed subtitle option that doesn't ask questions, but rather provides random bits of trivia. Finally, there is a music video for This World Fair's “Don't Make Me Wait,” a photo gallery of about 50 behind-the-scenes and publicity shots, 1 1/2 minutes of outtakes, and the extremely well done original theatrical trailer.|
Copyright ©2007 James Kendrick
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