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Domestic Disturbance

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Domestic Disturbance

Starring: John Travolta, Vince Vaughn
Director: Harold Becker
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: November 2001
Genre: Suspense

*Also starring: Teri Polo, Susan Floyd, Steve Buscemi, Matt O'Leary, Ruben Santiago-Hudson

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE, directed by Harold Becker (MERCURY RISING), is an efficient thriller starring a sincere John Travolta as a long suffering and supportive father named Frank Morrison and an increasingly creepy Vince Vaughn as an evil stepfather named Rick Barnes. The rest of the cast in this formula child-in-danger film is serviceable enough.

A variation on the old story of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," the plot concerns Danny Morrison (Matthew O'Leary), a boy about to get an unwanted new dad when his mother, Susan (Teri Polo), marries Rick. With a history of lying to the police, Danny isn't believed when he tells them a macabre tale involving his new stepfather and a mysterious stranger, played by Steve Buscemi.

Using all of the standard tricks -- Cue the thunder! Hide behind the door. Cut the phone lines. -- the director gets in too much of a hurry. Key motivational scenes are needlessly rushed while schlock fright techniques push all of the usual buttons to get the audience to jump. And jump they do. One tiny, brief threat, for example, causes an unbelievable and rapid transformation in one character's actions. A minute more, and we might have bought his response. The script also relies on way too many coincidences to glue the rickety plot together.

And yet, DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE, which could be quite disturbing to impressionable kids under thirteen, frequently does exactly what it sets out to do, which is to frighten us and to draw us into the mystery. Travolta and Vaughn, although they play characters like so many that they've played before, are still terrific at it. You root for Frank and want Rick to get caught. The ending is satisfying on a gut level until you realize how often you've seen it all before. If the projector dies ten minutes before the conclusion, you'll be able to correctly guess how it all gets resolved. On the other hand, if that happens, you could easily think of something more original. You wouldn't have to worry that something different might not do well on a test screen.

DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE runs 1:30. It is rated PG-13 for "violence, brief sexuality and language" and would be acceptable for teenagers.

Copyright 2001 Steve Rhodes

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