09
Dec
09

Movie Review: The Box

WTF?

Starring James Marsden, Cameron Diaz, and Frank Langella. Directed by Richard Kelly. Based on the short story, “Button, Button,” by Richard Matheson.

Instead of a straight-forward review of the film, I have chosen to write an open-letter:

Mr. Kelly

I’m a freelance blogger and movie reviewer. In my articles (or posts) I usually give a rundown of the film, likes/dislikes, and why they should (or should not) go to see the movie I reviewed. Two days ago I watched your latest film, “The Box,” and found myself with the problem of not being able to logically break down the film and make it sound worthy of theatrical attendance. For my review of “The Box” I am posting this open letter to you and I have to ask:

Dude, what were you thinking?

Before I go too much further let me offer my thoughts. You’re an interesting director and let no one say that you’re not original. I liked “Donnie Darko.” I wasn’t smitten with the concept but I liked how you wove time-travel and destiny into a thought-provoking storyline. “Southland Tales” spoke to me because of its spiritual-based undertones and the segment where Justin Timberlake lip-synced to The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done.” While it was a mess of a movie, I really did like it. I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt when it came to “The Box.”

I had good expectations for the movie. First off, I’ve read Matheson’s “Button, Button.” It’s definitely a dark short story as well as an interesting premise: what if you were given a box with a button on it that, when pressed, you were awarded a cash amount and someone that you don’t know dies. In the original story the husband died because his wife, who pressed the button, didn’t know him. Dark comedy; gotta love it. Somehow you wanted to take that dark comedy and twist it so that it wasn’t funny, amusing, ironic, or even at a base level, entertaining. What we, the moviegoer, experience is the “haunted object” sub-genre where evil continues to perpetuate ad nauseum because the entirety of humanity is vain, shallow, and greedy. Maybe this wouldn’t have been so bad if there was as long a discussion about the moral principle of the box in the movie as there was in the original short story. Then again I’ve seen this movie formula in such fare as Joe Carnahan’s “Blood, Guts, Bullets, and Octane,” about a car that brings death to every owner it has, and even further back to the “Twilight Zone” episode, “From Agnes With Love,” about a computer that begins to have feelings for whatever scientist works on it, driving them to the edge. No offence, the formula probably goes back further than that.

There are so many problems with this movie that film school students could spend years dissecting it and still not figure out where it went wrong. Here are a few questions that I have:

– What was the motivation behind the alien inhabiting Mr. Steward? He gives the couple $1 million and we see it’s because of greed yet, when a wife is chosen over a son/daughter, he makes a statement about the $1 million being put into a bank account that the child cannot touch until he/she turns 18. Why would that matter? If he really wanted to see greed destroy someone wouldn’t he just give the kid the $1 million?
– Why have the three portals (one to salvation, two to damnation) if they’re not going to make any real difference in what happens in the end?
– Why the crème-colored lens? I know the idea was to make it look like 1976, but not all films shot in the Seventies used it; just a lot of the bad ones e.g., “Burnt Offerings.”
– How was the alien able to control everyone? I know that the idea probably sounded good on paper and in a Seventies/Eighties sci-fi/horror sense it may seem a good idea, but no, it didn’t work. It just made me feel like I was in a bad M. Night movie.
– What was the deal with the creepy student/waiter Charles?
– Who exactly is supposed to be the audience for this movie, outside your family and friends?

These are just a few of the questions off the top of my head. I know that you’re a capable filmmaker who has an interesting take on sci-fi, but this is too away-from-base for me. I had hoped that you were taking a good Matheson short story and crafting a great movie, not taking a better story and cinematically destroying it. I will give you credit for the ability to create suspense in a few scenes, and a little wonderment at the possibilities I saw, but for the most part as a movie watcher I was disappointed and let-down. I’m not asking for my $9 back but I do hope that you’ve read this.

My grade for your movie, sir: D+

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3 Responses to “Movie Review: The Box”


  1. December 15, 2009 at 5:36 am

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    Like

  2. 2 jedediah smith
    March 6, 2010 at 3:48 am

    I found this review while looking for some background info about the the original short story and the movie. I thought the movie was excellent. I don’t understand why when someone doesn’t understand every little thing that happens in a movie that the movie is automatically a bad movie. As I read your review I was reminded that some people are just too stupid for some movies. I’ll just go watch an M Night Shyamalan movie now.

    Like


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