Disturbia isn't a great thriller, or even a particularly memorable one, but this compact little flick delivers well-oiled thrills, injects humor and visual flair, and boasts another appealing performance from meteorically rising star Shia LaBeouf. Such positives help compensate for what winds up a disappointing predictability and an abundance of genre clichés.
LaBeouf is Kale Brecht, a smart and likeable 17 year old going through an angsty period. It's been a year since his father (Matt Craven) died in a violent car crash -- we see the incident play out in a brief prologue -- and Kale, who was driving, still grieves the loss. His temper gets the better of him when a Spanish-language teacher makes a taunting comment about Kale's late dad. Kale slugs the guy and is subsequently sentenced to house arrest for three months. Fitted with an electronic ankle bracelet, Kale is instructed that a GPS monitoring device will immediately notify police if he strays more than 100 feet from home base.
At first, it looks to be more picnic than punishment. Kale settles in for a vacation of videogames and downloading music, but his mom (Carrie-Anne Moss, getting used to a post-Matrix career) soon takes away his Xbox and cancels his iTunes subscription. Kale is left with little else to do but spy on his neighbors.
Luckily for Kale (and us), his neighbors aren't big on drapes, blinds or modesty. Our hormone-addled protagonist gets an eyeful of Ashley (Sarah Roemer), whose family has just moved in next door. With the help of binoculars, Kale ogles the lithesome girl swimming and sunbathing; it's here that the movie conjures up the Coppertone-scented whiff of a Risky Business-meets-John Hughes vibe. Screenwriters Christopher Landon and Carl Ellsworth wring some genuine laughs out of the teen comedy shtick. Later, when Ashley throws a party and flirts with a jock, Kale sabotages the shindig by positioning his stereo speakers out the window and blasting Minnie Riperton's cornstarch-laden 1974 ballad, "Lovin' You."
Nevertheless, the picture is more interested in channeling Rear Window and its tale of voyeurism-turned-lethal. Before long, Kale and Ashley are spit-swappin' pals. Joined by comic-relief sidekick Ronnie (Aaron Yoo), the teen trio resolves to find out whether the creepy next-door neighbor, Robert Turner (David Morse), is whacking more than weeds.
Director D.J. Caruso (Two for the Money) handily maneuvers his way through familiar pic territory. What Disturbia lacks in originality, it makes up for in surefootedness. Perhaps it's only fitting that Kale lives in a Craftsman-style home, since the movie itself exemplifies solid Hollywood craftsmanship. One minor but notable exception arrives when Caruso breaks from Kale's point of view to feed the audience information to which our hero is not privy.
And that slickness mostly carries Disturbia through its less-inspired sequences, particularly a third act that devolves into ho-hum slasher-movie clichés. It's all smoothly done, but the climactic showdown is tiresome and inevitable, and it takes a bit of the shine off an otherwise accomplished B-movie.
In a nutshell, that encapsulates the appeal and aggravation of Disturbia. This is dependable entertainment, alternately scary and funny, but its superficiality and dearth of originality keeps the movie from being something you might want to revisit.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen and boasting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Disturbia's print transfer beautifully preserves the rich, evocative work of cinematographer Rogier Stoffers. There are no noticeable problems such as edge enhancement, combing or pixilation.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX is crisp, clear and makes inventive use of the rear speakers. The disc includes audio tracks in French and Spanish, with subtitles available in English, French and Sapnish.
A commentary track with Caruso, LaBeouf and Roemer is engagingly laidback -- so much so that the director even takes a cell phone call from his wife (for those interested in such things, he needed to bring home duct tape and fax paper). There's a lot of self-congratulation among the three, but they have a nice, easygoing rapport.
The 14-minute, 50-second The Making of Disturbia is fairly standard fare, but it's certainly watchable. The feautrette includes interviews with cast and crew.
Other extras include outtakes (1:25), a theatrical trailer and four deleted scenes with an aggregate running time of four minutes, 35 seconds. There is also a music video of This World Fair's "Don't Make Me Wait," a Serial Pursuit/Pop Up Quiz, photo gallery and previews of other releases.
Boasting high production values and visual slickness, Disturbia is a mixed bag. Two-thirds of it welds Rear Window and John Hughes, an irresistible combination certain to tickle your fancy. But that fun is mitigated somewhat by a third act that settles for tired slasher-flick clichés.