reviewed by Andrew James
LeBeouf plays Kale, a young man forced to endure three months of house arrest for punching his teacher in the face (for reasons that are explained and plausible). Kale must wear a device around his ankle that will summon the authorities if he steps outside the "safety" zone; in other words, his own lawn. Inevitably becoming bored, Kale begins his own form of entertainment: watching the neighborhood folk as they go about their daily routines. It's like "reality TV without the TV," Kale explains. Soon enough, he becomes suspicious of one neighbor, played by David Morse, of being a mass murder and with the help of his friend Ronald, begin surveillance on this guy's house.
Along with Ronald is next door hottie, Ashley, who has just moved in and not happy about being spied on herself, decides to help Ronald and Kale stakeout the creepy guy across the street's house.
I must admit two things positive about the film. First of all, is Shia LeBeouf. The way he maintains a sense of cool and hip even into his twenties while playing a teenager works really well. He's great in just about every project he's involved in (most notably A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints and Bobby) and I look forward to more of his work; including this summer's Transformers movie. His on-screen aura is totally believable and he seems like a great guy. The kind of dude you just want to hang out with. So his acting and effort is a definite positive in this film.
The second positive I'll get to in a minute. So finally the suspense and "action" begins. Kale et al. must infiltrate Morse's home and sneak around his yard without getting caught. This is what I thought the majority of the film would be like - unfortunately it's really only the last 25 minutes or so. But is that really unfortunate? Because as I left the screening, I thought that I had been waiting for this huge suspenseful film, and when it finally did get to the meat of the tale, I was totally let down by it's lack of suspense or impact. Not to mention the sheer ludocrity (my word) of what we see once we're inside the "evil" house.
So it dawned on me that the beginning parts with the banter and set up with Kale and friends was actually the better of the two segments of film. Yet I was semi-bored with it. So this tells me that basically the whole film was less than enjoyable and overall it would have been better if I had just skipped the whole thing.
The film does do a fairly reasonable job of depicting teenagers and how they might act in these situations. I liked LeBeouf's dialogue and believability when it came to interacting with friends and the online community (Xbox and text messeging, etc). Though the film was pretty much one giant Apple commercial from start to finish, none-the-less, this is realistic and so I went with it.
One last thing, David Morse was also not used very effectively I didn't feel. He carried himself alright and he worked for the role, but the script and style just didn't seem to work for him. He was underused and far too reserved. But that's just me and a pointless observation anyway since he isn't in the film all that much anyway.
Teenagers who can't get into an 'R' rated film will probably enjoy Disturbia for tackling some issues that are important to them and being true to that world. For the rest of us with a little more film knowledge, it seems like a dumbed down version of Rear Window with preposterousness and predictability written all over the place during the last twenty minutes. It's not a film I hated, but certainly not one I enjoyed (other than LeBeouf's performance and the cute girl factor). Maybe worth a rental on DVD one day, but on the other hand, maybe not.
IMDb profile - full cast and crew
FLIXSTER PROFILE for Disturbia