This “Box” needed a “stop” button
We’ve all been there before. We are watching a movie with an intriguing premise and soon it becomes clear that the movie is not meeting any of our expectations. The jokes fall flat, the “spooks” aren’t spooky enough, and the actors seem to be sleepwalking (and I don’t mean paranormally), but we hang in there with one hope: that the movie will get better.
But it doesn’t.
“The Box” is that kind of movie.
The concept, based on a short story by sci-fi writer Richard Matheson, has its origins in “The Twilight Zone” movie. After seeing director Richard Kelly’s (“Donnie Darko”) take, it’s clear that “The Box” had no business being a full length film. The movie prompts lots of questions, but offers few answers and remains a glorified ruse-interesting to the eye but insulting to the brain.
This is a shame because the film is centered on a curious moral dilemma (spelled out clearly in the previews). Press a button fashioned in a mysterious box to earn a cool million dollars, but in exchange, someone you don’t know will die.
The lucky couple presented with this option by the well-dressed but facially disfigured man (Frank Langella) is played by James Marsden and Cameron Diaz. The film is shot in and around 1970s era Virginia, which is convenient for the references to NASA and the NSA offices and possible conspiracies that lead nowhere. There’s lots of good detail in the film but little substantive narrative. Nosebleeds abound, watery gateways appear, and the normally engaging Diaz walks around with a “bad smell” scowl on her face and a less-than-convincing southern accent.
Not to mention the all-too-obvious hypothetical: once bad things start to happen around you, wouldn’t you spend at least SOME of your million dollars on a getaway to some remote island where you could forget about your troubles? (The film completely ignores the money after the set-up).
The overpowering and tedious soundtrack tries, unsuccessfully, to create tension. But about halfway in, it’s clear “The Box” has little to offer but unfulfilled potential. Two hours of your time is a terrible thing to waste.
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some violence and disturbing images.