Unfortunately, director D.J. Caruso chooses to stop just shy of full-blown voyeurism, which might have made for a much better movie.
Let's get it out of the way and just say that Disturbia rips off Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window so blatantly that it would be ridiculous to ignore this fact or to address much at all. Writers Christopher B. Landon and Carl Ellsworth, along with director D.J. Caruso, have copied not just the plot and established character motivation, but much of the same action and moments that thrilled audiences 50 years ago, but are so poorly used in this movie as to actually be comical.
Kale (Shia LaBeouf) has been placed on house arrest for the summer after punching one of his high school teachers. Quickly, Kale finds himself getting bored and stir crazy after only a few days inside his house. He passes the time testing how far his ankle alarm will allow him to go in his yard and by mapping out the daily routines of his neighbors, running from window to window to catch "the show" each day. His only connection to the outside world is his best friend, Ronnie (Aaron Yoo).
Soon, Kale becomes very interested in his new next-door neighbor Ashley (Sarah Roemer) whose bedroom window is right across from his own and who likes swimming in very tiny bathing suits. Kale also becomes convinced that his neighbor Mr. Turner (David Morse) is responsible for several recent deaths in the area, and takes to using every conceivable bit of technology at his fingertips to watch him.
Too much of the movie is spent in exposition, showing Kale occupying his time or trying to hook up with Ashley. The lives of the neighbors are interesting and could have even been taken a bit further to show how much Kale has really learned about them. Unfortunately, Caruso chooses to stop just shy of full-blown voyeurism, which might have made for a much better movie.
LaBeouf dominates the movie as Kale. This young actor, who made his name on Disney's Even Stevens and the big-screen adaptation of Holes, has turned into a confident and capable screen star. Granted, he's not Jimmy Stewart and the dialogue is nowhere near as good as Hitchcock's, but LaBeouf makes do with what he has and gives a convincing performance as a disgruntled teen sentenced to a summer of boredom.
Morse is great as the creepy next-door neighbor we're not sure if we trust. He has always played slimy well, and gives another terrific performance. Carrie-Anne Moss, who plays Julie, Kale's mom, pops in and out of the movie merely to advance the plot.
Director Caruso does some fun tricks with the different types of cameras Kale uses for surveillance, but the novelty wears off soon and we really just look for more action and less of the stilted and flat dialogue. The only "thrilling" moments of this thriller are in the last 20 minutes and don't include enough of a payoff for an audience expecting to be startled and scared instead of amused and bored. | Matthew F. Newlin