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DISTURBIA (director: D. J. Caruso; screenwriters: Christopher Landon/Carl Ellsworth/based on a story by Mr. Landon; cinematographer: Rogier Stoffers; editor: Jim Page; music: Geoff Zanelli; cast: Shia LaBeouf (Kale), David Morse (Mr. Robert Turner), Sarah Roemer (Ashley), Carrie-Anne Moss (Julie), Aaron Yoo (Ronnie); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Joe Medjuck/E. Bennett Walsh/Jackie Marcus; Paramount Pictures; 2007)
“It never manages to be disturbing in an intelligent psychological sense; it opts instead for B-film clichéd shocks.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director D.J. Caruso (“Salton Sea”/”Two for the Money”) unsuccessfully reworks Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) as a modern-day adolescent thriller. The homebound voyeuristic hero role played by Jimmy Stewart, finding out that one of his Greenwich Village neighbors is a murderer, now has Shia LaBeouf as Kale, the homebound hero who is a self-absorbed horny suburban teenager with the latest in cell phones, vidcams and laptop technology to go along with his binoculars. The Grace Kelly romantic interest part is played with relish by Sarah Roemer, as Kale’s hot new teenage neighbor named Ashley. The film is tolerable, but certainly not in Hitch’s class, until it falls apart in the third act when it moves into the absurd shooting for cheap thrills. It’s based on the story by Christopher Landon and cowritten by him and Carl Ellsworth.

Returning from a joyful father and son fly-fishing trip, Kale’s father is killed in a grisly car crash. A year later, high school student Kale is still disturbed over his loss and when his Spanish teacher unwittingly brings up something about his dad–the irritable student pops the teacher in the head. He’s sentenced by the court to be homebound for three months and monitored by an electronic ankle bracelet that signals the police station, so if he goes a certain distance beyond the perimeters of his house the police will pay him an unfriendly visit.

The bored nerdy teen gets on his harried mom’s (Carrie-Anne Moss) nerves by his continued erratic behavior, as she doesn’t have the patience to deal with his annoying habits because she has to work longer hours to try and make ends meet. To compensate for his loss of iPod, video games and TV privileges, Kale uses binoculars to spy on his neighbors. One neighbor is Ashley, who turns him on while sunbathing in a bikini. Another neighbor, Robert Turner (David Morse), he suspects of being a serial killer of women, and the more he spies on him and checks the Internet for the TV stories presented about missing women in the area–the more the possibility is that his obsessive lawn-mowing neighbor is indeed a serial killer. Kale has no problem convincing his goofy classmate friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) and the playful Ashley, but his mom finds the creepy guy attractive and agrees to go out with him (which is never developed) and the police don’t believe him for a sec. It’s up to the teens to do some serious sleuthing, and to prove that these slackers have the potential to be responsible citizens like Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly.

Though not original and not scary, at least, Disturbia is less leaden than Caruso’s other films. But it never manages to be disturbing in an intelligent psychological sense; it opts instead for B-film clichéd shocks.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”