There is no reason to do a song and dance around what you and I both expect Disturbia to be. It is an unofficial Rear Window with teenagers for teenagers directed by a guy who thinks he is a teenager, using two letter abbreviations for his name – and I never trust anyone who abbreviates their name, especially when a google search turns up no elaboration on the letters. For more on why I do not trust these ‘people’, just read the names McG and Kaos and proceed to feel a phantom hurt somewhere in your soul.
But, expectations can be wrong and I am man enough to admit when such is the case. I’ll even put aside my disdain for people who can’t use a real name as a testament to how much of a Disturbia fan I am. It is a perfectly engineered PG-13 thriller that meets and exceeds all expectations of said label(s).
Despite the fact that he is taking over the box office world, whenever I try and recommend a movie with Shia LeBeouf, I am almost always met with groans of, "Oh, God, that guy!?" A reaction I can’t understand. I’ve been a fan of his since "Even Stevens" – yeah, I watch the Disney Channel, do something! – and was blown away by his turn in A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. He’s a teen actor who can pull weight adult counterparts struggle with. He takes on the James Stewart imprisoned role of Kale, an average Joe Fourpack on house arrest for behavior following the death of his father in a superbly realistic car crash. While his best friend Ronnie is on vacation, a bored Kale turns to spying on his neighbors. Mainly scoping out the frequently bathing suit-clad Sarah Roemer playing Ashley, who eventually joins in on the voyeurism. All while a murder mystery may or may not be playing out right next door.
Of course – and I’m not spoiling anything here, if you think otherwise you’re a fool – the neighbor is the killer. The cinematic game isn’t whether or not there is truth to the teen’s suspicions, but at just what point is David Morse’s veil of suburbia going to fall away. The build up to it is casual with cliches kept to a minimum. Even though the thrills are almost all contained after Morse’s snap, Caruso keeps interest high with a mixture of minor detective work and simple cast charisma. LaBeouf, Roemer (who is apparently older than I am, so don’t feel guilty about the pool scenes), and Aaron Yoo all have that wide-eyed screen innocence you’ve got to enjoy in a youthful movie like this.
Disturbia is never, nor was it ever going to win any awards for originality, but that doesn’t mean the shipped product is without purchase. Ellsworth and Landon’s script has a distinct goal in sight and Caruso knows exactly when and how to turn the reel. The result is a pristine weekend entertainer. Something you can watch with the lights on or off, with a crowd or by yourself and still get more than a few kicks out of. Gore hounds will likely balk as they always do, fearing the popular PG-13 rating with the same logic as a homophobe, but that kind of predetermined aversion is only a crutch. You’ll know whether or not Disturbia is something you’ll enjoy, just don’t cross it off your list solely because of its rating and the fact that it was one of the most successful box-office stories of the year.
There’s a reason for the success of Disturbia, both on a broad commercial scale and a personal one. It’s the same reason Lunchables are so damned delicious. If the answer to that riddle eludes you, you’ve never had a childhood, in which case you should be neither watching Disturbia nor eating Lunchables. And if you think you’re too good to admit enjoying either, you’re a liar.