"The Box" is just plain weird

Nov. 9, 2009, midnight | By Amir Gorjifard | 12 years, 1 month ago

Richard Kelly's dull movie makes Lifetime specials seem like Scorsese pictures

Director and screenwriter Richard Kelly has been known for thought-provoking thrillers such as "Donnie Darko" and "Southland Tales." With "The Box" he deviates from his original story telling and creates an adaptation of the Richard Matheson short story, "Button, Button." The result is bland and slow and epitomizes what a thriller should not be.

The film starts out on a cold day in 1976, a package arrives at the home of Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur Lewis (James Marsden). Inside the package is a black box with a red button covered by a glass dome. Twelve hours later, a disfigured man, (Frank Langella), visits the family and informs them that if they press the button on the wooden box then they will be given $1 million, but an unknown stranger will die. Norma eventually presses the button and receives the money and soon after is informed that the same offer will be given to another couple and if that button is pressed Norma, Arthur, and their son will be at risk. Now the clock is ticking until Norma and Arthur find a way to save their family.

The entire premise of the movie makes it more suitable as a television special instead of a feature-length film. Predictably, the movie's premise was a "Twilight Zone" episode from the 1980s. Richard Kelly started his career off with a bang with the movie, "Donnie Darko," which was insightful and scary just like a satisfying psychological thriller.

However, since that movie, Kelly has been suffering from what is now known as the "Shyamalan Effect," named after director and screenwriter M. Night Shyamalan. Shyamalan started his career with the stunning and constantly quoted "Sixth Sense," yet shortly after, subsequent movies turned choppy and illogical. "The Box" exemplifies this downward trend.

The lack of chemistry between Marsden and Diaz make them the new odd couple. Langella is the only true star in the film. His performance is mysterious and one of the few features that keep this movie from being labeled as the worst thriller of the season.

Weaved in the film is the theme that greed will lead to dire consequences. Unfortunately, it is a sentiment overplayed on television and in sermons. Such a trite and overdone theme enveloped in "The Box" gives an unsurprised and unenlightened impression.

Kelly uses his directorial talents enough to set an ominous tone that permeates the film and renders the plot marginally suspenseful and dramatic through his emphasis of certain sounds such as the creaking of the doors. Though Kelly is a talented director, no amount of special effects or lighting will make up for his lackluster writing and stale plot development. Overall, this movie should have been boxed in instead of being released and wreaking havoc on movie viewers.

"The Box" is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some violence and disturbing images. Now playing in theaters everywhere.

Tags: review

Amir Gorjifard. Son of Mahmoud Gorjifard and Nahid Gorjifard, Amir can be best described by two words: gorgeous and modest. His two loves in this world are his two guitars - his acoustic guitar, E. Roosevelt (he was forced to add the E. due to an overrated … More »

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