Much buzz has surrounded child actor-turned-superstar Shia LaBeouf since he was named the rightful heir to the fourth Indiana Jones sequel. Dubbed a Steven Spielberg protégé, LaBeouf seems to have come from nowhere yet suddenly everywhere. His first starring role as a young man is Disturbia, a modern update of Hitchcock’s incomparable Rear Window. In fact, LaBeouf is the best reason to see the movie.
Weirdly enough, Disturbia firmly held the number one spot at the box office three weeks running, which could mean that it’s a bona fide hit, or it could mean that audiences are chomping at the bit to get themselves all hyped on summer movie fun. Either way, it’s nice for LaBeouf, as it’s slowly becoming his year.
Directed by TJ Caruso (who helmed the ghastly thriller Taking Lives with Angelina Jolie and Ethan Hawke), from a rather inept script by Christopher B. Landon (son of the late Michael) and Carl Ellsworth, Disturbia is full of things to complain about: fairly predictable plot, illogical plot points and a movie that proves how young all of those involved really are. Most of them were born after you and I graduated high school (except the director, who really has no excuse). Then again, that’s what’s so great about it. It is like reading one of your child’s first mysteries or short stories – it is charming even though none of it makes any real sense.
The real story would be an unforgettable horror show: boy gets house arrest for punching out his Spanish teacher and ends up having nothing better to do than spy on his neighbors, discovering that a serial killer lives next door. He’s also spied the woman of his dreams (a poor man’s not-even-Grace-Kelly) whom he watches do yoga, read, listen to her iPod and roll her eyes at her combative parents.
Eventually, his world will intersect with the killer’s world, just like in Rear Window. The only major difference between the real thing and the fake is that Hitchcock’s film never tells you that Raymond Burr did it until the very end; that’s the beauty of that film. It would have been far too crass for Hitchcock to make a film like Disturbia. But today’s audiences don’t have that kind of patience. They’ve been conditioned to have things dumbed down to such a degree that it can’t possibly offend anyone nor make anyone feel stupid.
There is a good deal of suspense, which the film is to be admired for, and it takes place in the first hour. Once the plot become obvious the film all but falls apart, and it’s just a matter of waiting out the one implausible plot point after the next.
There are several obligatory shots as well, which cannot be revealed because of the spoiler rule, but let’s just say that Spielberg himself appears to have put a similar scene in almost every one of his action movies.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing glaringly wrong with Disturbia. There is enough heart-stopping action to make it well worth the price of a ticket. But the only exceptional thing about it is LaBeouf, who manages to make every frame almost believable. He’s not Jimmy Stewart, but then, who is?
There will never be a film as good as Rear Window. It was one of a kind. The concept is worth redoing, perhaps, as no one ever tires of voyeurism. Hopefully the film will inspire young people to check out the Hitchcock classic. And maybe, in time, they will see why one is so vastly superior to the other.
Funnily enough, the film is tops at the box office the same few weeks the country is dealing with untold amounts of violence in Iraq and the Virginia Tech school shooting. There is no mistake about the fakery of the violence in Disturbia, however. While we appear to be, more and more, a violence-obsessed culture, at least in films like these, the violence is camp enough to be almost funny.