Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
It's not the stunningly blatant similarities to Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window that bug me so much about Disturbia -- although they certainly don't help matters much. Filmmakers borrow, steal from, and acquire "inspiration" from classic flicks all the time. And if you're going to bash Disturbia for aping Rear Window then I guess you have to knock every zombie movie ever made for aping Night of the Living Dead ... and some of those zombie flicks are actually pretty good. No, what's most irritating about Disturbia is the way in which it actually LIFTS stuff from Hitchcock -- and then does nothing interesting with those borrowed components. It's like a surprisingly slick-looking student film, a student whose assignment was "Go make a Hitchcockian thriller."
Shia LaBeouf (whose very solid performance is the best component of the film) stars as Kale, a nice kid who's struggling with the loss of his father, which (kinda)explains why he hauls off and socks his Spanish teacher right in the kisser. Kale is romptly remanded to house arrest, which means he can't go more than a few yards outside his front door. The arrival of a new neighborhood hottie gives Kale something to focus on while he deals with punishment -- until his binoculars focus on something unpleasant. Quicker than you can cry wolf, Kale is 100% absolutely positive that one of his neighbors (the walking glower that is David Morse) is a cold-blooded psycho killer. But (get this) his mom doesn't believe him, the cops think he's a delinquent, and the hottie next door thinks he's a creep -- at first, anyway.
And there's the set-up for a glossy little teen-centric thriller that moves quickly through its checklist of stereotypes and cliches, but doesn't make much effort where originality or surprises are concerned. Director D.J. Caruso's strongest asset is his cast, with Mr. LaBeouf delivering a better performance than the movie probably deserves, an underused Carrie-Anne Moss as the stressed out mom, David Morse as a predictably intimidating figure, and the really very cute Sarah Roemer as the hot new girl from next door. (She's not much of an actress, but good acting isn't what this role is actually about, if you get my meaning.)
As Disturbia plods through its patently predictable plot points, the tedium manages to give way (once in a while) for a relatively juicy moments of tension, but they don't last very long at all. The last 20-some minutes also pack a few minor jolts here and there, but by then it's pretty much too little too late. Even members of the target demographic who manage to enjoy the movie will have a tough time recalling it a few days later. Disturbia is a dopey, obvious, and gratingly familiar piece of genre fare, one that's been cobbled together from overused components of a dozen other thrillers. It's a huge bucket of cinematic leftovers, basically, one that might taste delicious to some -- but I'm pretty tired of eating the same old leftovers at this point.