Hollywood Product - Disturbia
Thriller shows teens who like to watch
Genre: Teen thriller
The pitch: Kale Brecht (Shia LaBeouf), a likeable but troubled teen under house arrest, turns self-appointed neighborhood watch and suspects the guy next door (David Morse) of being a murderer.
Flesh factor: The moody hottie-next-door (Sarah Roemer) flounces around in a barely there bikini in extreme close-up – all to reflect the evils of voyeurism, of course.
Body count: About five, some of which are in ghoulish states of decomposition, like they belong in a tomb in an Indiana Jones movie.
Money shots: The prologue features a shocking, lethal accident worthy of the Final Destination franchise. Kale uses string and garden gnomes to figure out how far he can go before his ankle bracelet goes off. The hottie uses a picture phone to keep the neighbor under surveillance while shopping. An intrepid teen searches the improbably vast sub-basements and murder holes beneath an ordinary-looking suburban house.
Product placement: Kale's mother (The Matrix's Carrie-Anne Moss) cuts off his iTunes and Xbox subscriptions, but not before we see him playing Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon. Kale shares a Coke and a smile with a parent in a suspiciously idyllic early scene.
Best line: "Why does he want his privacy?" asks Kale, inadvertently suggesting that the right to privacy no longer exists.
Worst line: "That's either the creepiest or the sweetest thing I've ever heard," says the hottie after Kale tries to explain away his stalkerish behavior.
conspicuous pop songs: Kale lazes around in his filthy room listening to Afroman's "Because I Got High." Kale uses a deafening version of Minnie Riperton's "Lovin' You" to disrupt the hottie's pool party. System of a Down's "Lonely Day" captures Kale's self-pity with such grammatically awful lyrics as "It's the most loneliest day of my life."
Better than Rear Window?: No. Of course, it's not a credited remake of the Alfred Hitchcock classic, and Disturbia doesn't even have the courtesy to show a clip from the film in homage, like Thelma Ritter saying, "We've become a nation of Peeping Toms." But it's the same plot, only with half the interest but twice the attempted "shocks" as Rear Window.
The bottom line: Director D.J. Caruso proves interested in the voyeuristic POV shots of the premise, at least as a technical exercise, and LaBeouf and Morse lend snap to their roles. Derivative as it may be, Disturbia persuasively argues that the time may be ripe to revisit Rear Window's themes, thanks to advances in picture phone, digital camera and other gadgets of the YouTube generation.
Disturbia. 3 stars. Directed by D.J. Caruso. Stars Shia LaBeouf, Sarah Roemer. PG-13. Opens Fri., April 13. At area theaters.