Danika
First Look Pictures // R // $26.99 // December 26, 2006
Review by Scott Weinberg | posted January 15, 2007
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The Movie

Imagine the little kid from The Sixth Sense as a frazzled stay-at-home mom and you're halfway to understanding the bland yet semi-compelling conceit of Danika, a TV-movie-level thriller starring (the aging yet still adorable) Marisa Tomei. Well, I found it perfectly serviceable little flick ... up until the predictably obvious (and depressingly mean-spirited) twist ending.

Ms. Tomei plays the title character, a kind-hearted -- but seriously overprotective -- housewife and mother of three. After suffering through a series of convoluted "visions" (she witnesses a phantom bank robbery, for example) Danika decides to bail on her job and hang around the house a bit more. Her husband (well played by Craig Bierko) is the epitome of all things sweet and understanding ... so you can predict this character's third-act metamorphosis from the word go.

Each of Danika's kids gets precisely one character trait and one subplot apiece: The little one likes to go late-night swimming in his neighbor's yard, the daughter has discovered a taste for, ahem, salacious reading material, and the oldest son has a foreign exchange girlfriend who has a sassy mouth.

And then there are the visions. Danika gets all sort of wacky pictures in her brain: She imagines a dismembered head inside of a shopping bag, harbors a strange sense of guilt regarding a local girl who recently went missing, and is basically terrorized by a bunch of nasty hallucinations that may or may not have some basis in reality. (But mostly not.)

Director Ariel Vromen delivers his tale in a crisp and efficient fashion, but he has an annoying habit of letting his camera just kinda "float" around the action -- and it's pretty darn distracting when a camera can't just sit still during one simple dialogue scene. Danika's visions (and the flick's few stray moments of creepy atmosphere) come through in fine form, but Vromen is obviously beholden to a screenplay (by first-timer Josh Leibner) that's way too obvious, conventional, and beholden to flicks like The Sixth Sense and Jacob's Ladder.

The DVD

Audio/Video: The anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer is pretty darn solid, and the audio presentation (DD 5.1) does a fine job as well. Optional subtitles are available in Spanish only.

Extras: Director Ariel Vroman and composer Gilad Benamram contribute a typically self-adoring commentary track in which they talk about how great this shot looks and how tough that edit was. Basically a snoozer. Also included is a 10-minute making of documentary full of cast/crew talking head interviews -- none of which add much actual insight into the filmmaking process. You'll also find some storyboards and a bunch of trailers.

Final Thoughts

Rent It if you still love the sort of thrillers that rely on nothing more than a strong lead performance and a final-reel mega-twist. Tomei and Bierko do what they can -- and the director probably has much better films ahead of him -- but there's very little here you haven't seen before.



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