Favorite

Don’t open this ‘Box’ 

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

'THE BOX': James Marsden and Cameron Diaz star.
  • 'THE BOX': James Marsden and Cameron Diaz star.

It may sound derogatory to say that “The Box” feels like an old “Twilight Zone” episode expanded to two hours. Unfortunately, that's maybe the nicest thing you can say for this mishmash. Is it an “Omelas”-influenced morality tale? A sci-fi suspense thriller with its shoelaces tied together? Maybe, but mostly it's a tacit cry for the return of new “Mystery Science Theater 3000” episodes. 

Here's a Netflix-ready synopsis, because you're not paying to see this film: Norma Lewis (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur Lewis (James Marsden) awake one morning to find on their porch a mysterious wooden box with a shiny red button. A Brooks Brothers burn victim named Arlington Steward (Frank Langella) makes the offer: push the button, someone somewhere dies — but you get a million bucks for taking the plunge(r).  

Also, Norma has a mangled foot, Arthur works for NASA and Steward is some kind of lightning-infected Martian zombie who has lobotomized half of Richmond, Va., to puppeteer a plot to determine the worth of the human race by putting people up to shooting each other in the chest. Spoiler warning: They push the button. Not long after, they try to return the cash to a departing Steward, and soon you feel the same buyer's remorse. If you fork over $7 to see “The Box,” somewhere inside your head, brain cells will die.

The film is most disappointing in that bungles its profound ethical crux: What unseen, vicarious crimes are you willing to accept in exchange for material well-being? A bottle of red wine, a couple of friends, and this fuels a poignant discussion. Instead, we have to follow the thought process of Richard Kelly, the freshman year philosophy student turned director behind “Donnie Darko,” a similarly pretty but equally hollow attempted mind-screw. By the end of “The Box,” it's not even clear whether the titular device is reading people's actions or driving them, which undercuts the movie's very guts.

Thing is, Kelly came close to making a movie worth the benefit of a re-watch. As a period piece — it's set in 1976 — the movie is convincing; some of the visual effects are borderline brilliant; and there are times during its cockamamie unspooling when you hope it's all going somewhere. Those hopes implode when “The Box” reaches one of the more nonsensical, slapdash, illogical climaxes in memory. If you ever find yourself shouting at hysterical characters, “Haven't you people heard of Helen Keller?” be assured the thriller you're watching is too stupid for charity.

 

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Sam Eifling

  • 'True Detective' season 3 finale recap: Wins for Mahershala Ali, Northwest Arkansas

    Let’s appreciate for a moment what it means to a show like “True Detective” that you can stream TV now. Not simply to tape it, but watch it on devices as small as the pulpy paperback that it has, for many people, replaced. The ability to revisit it endlessly, to fast-forward and rewind and rewatch as easily as Wayne Hays’ memory skates through time. The third season of Nic Pizzolatto’s serial crime drama — destined to be remembered alongside its astonishing, fulgent first season, rather than the boggy, overcomplicated Season 2 — was a television story that skipped boldly between three timelines spread across 35 years, while living firmly in 2019.
    • Feb 25, 2019
  • 'True Detective' episode 7 recap: Penultimate payoff

    The sight of two broad-shouldered black Cadillacs in front of Wayne Hays’ house, and of a chicken tycoon phoning him to come outside, is the cliffhanger from the next-to-last episode of "True Detective’s" third season.
    • Feb 18, 2019
  • 'True Detective' episode 6 recap: Enter the chicken king

    Things are not going well for Tom Purcell, and that’s really saying a lot. Episode 6 of this third season of “True Detective” finds him mad as hell and not taking it anymore, and marks a high mark for Scoot McNairy, who till now has played the grieving father as the embodiment of cuckolded defeat.
    • Feb 11, 2019
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Wakanda for the win

    'Black Panther' is thoroughly, joyously, unabashedly black.
    • Feb 22, 2018

Latest in Movie Reviews

 

© 2019 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation