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Friday, November 6, 2009

MOVIE REVIEW
The Box

"If I Had A Million Dollars . . . "


James Mardsen as Arthur Lewis and Cameron Diaz as Norma Lewis in Richard Kelly's film "The Box", which opened today.
Warner Brothers

By Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
Friday, November 6, 2009

The answer to the above isn’t so straightforward, but if you want to know the answer to the question, ‘Is “The Box” a good movie?’ there’s no shorter answer than “no”.

Richard Kelly, who has directed doomsday-type films before (“Donnie Darko”, and the vastly underrated “Southland Tales”) sticks to formula with his latest, based on the short story Button, Button by Richard Matheson.  Cameron Diaz ups her acting IQ a little as Norma Lewis, a teacher and mother struggling with the dilemma of taking a million dollars in 1976.  Would you take that amount of cash from a mysterious man with half his face missing?  Norma does however, and tax free, after pressing a red button on a box that the man, Arlington Steward (Frank Langella), leaves in her home.  Husband Arthur (James Marsden), a NASA man, can’t comprehend Norma’s recounting of the nattily-attired stranger, but before long the red button press spells mayday for the Lewises, or for someone else, who will die if the button is pressed.

Mr. Kelly’s film has just enough creepiness around its edges to keep you awake, including a scene or two of decent suspense and a jolt, but is inadequate as a compelling or interesting thriller.  For all its hocus-pocus “The Box” is an empty trick.  The film spins wildly out of control as it slowly but surely takes a science-fiction turn, becoming increasingly bogged down by special effects and illogic.

Stylistically, Steven Poster’s cinematography is either drained of color (exteriors) or lit with a misty brightness (interiors) and the Lewis household is a sparse, almost empty place, even if the spousal and familial relationships aren’t.  Win Butler, Regine Cassagne and Owen Pallett supply the film’s original music, which perks up the atmosphere by keeping it icy cold.

Mr. Marsden does his best to play terrified, and while Miss Diaz isn’t bad, some of her dialogue and performance feels overwrought. There are parts of “The Box” that echo “The Shining” in visual style or (in theme) “The Game” (James Rebhorn, who starred opposite Michael Douglas in that 1997 film, appears here.)  When all is said and done however, “The Box” lacks the imagination, narrative cohesion and credibility to thrive as an effective film.  Perhaps that’s due to “The Box” being Mr. Kelly’s first film based on someone else’s work. Mr. Kelly wrote the script. As you watch “The Box” you get the feeling that a link is missing, but even more so that the legendary talents of Mr. Langella, Oscar nominee for last year’s “Frost/Nixon”, are sadly wasted.

With: Sam Oz Stone and Holmes Osbourne.

“The Box” is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for thematic elements, some violence and disturbing images.  The film’s running time is one hour and 56 minutes.

Read more movie reviews and stories from Omar here




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