Box, The (Review)

BOX, THE
(11/06/09; Sci-Fi)
Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella, James Rebhorn, Holmes Osborne, Sam Oz Stone, Gillian Jacobs
SCR: Richard Kelly; based on the 1970 short story “Button, Button” by Richard Matheson
DIR: Richard Kelly
MPAA: PG-13, for thematic elements, some violence and disturbing images.
1 hour 55 mins
BOX: $14,882,598

In 1976, a strange box with a big red button shows up at the home of cash-strapped suburbanites Diaz and Marsden. Mysterious stranger Langella, (missing half his face from a lightning strike) tells them if they hit the red button somebody they don’t know will die and they’ll get a million dollars.

Writer-director Kelly uses Matheson’s story as his jumping off point, but exceeds the goodwill of the morality tale after about 30 minutes. After that, it’s the kitchen sink approach with a NASA conspiracy, heavy-handed literature symbolism, spontaneous nosebleeds, a spooky Santa Claus (don’t ask) and enough strangeness to make David Lynch proud.

Simply lop out all the riddles and red herrings and this would be a nice tight little thriller. In fact, it was … when the story was turned into a 1986 Twilight Zone episode.

And even then, Matheson was allegedly so upset the producers changed the ending of the story, that he removed his credit in favor of the pseudonym “Logan Swanson.” But he’s credited here so I’m guessing he’s okay with the Martians …? (Warner Bros.)

— DENNIS WILLIS

Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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