Diaz, Marsden bore in Kelly's dull 'Box'
I generally love it when movies blur the lines or morality or place characters in situations where they must choose between right or a very profitable wrong. These ideas are frequently great starting points for interesting movies that explore the human spirit and, since the dawn of storytelling, have created some of the best stories out there.
What if we find $400,000 in a crashed airplane in the woods, but we have to lie in order to keep it? What if two men go on a killing spree, but only shoot violent mobsters? What if you know where $23 million in gold is but have to ignore violent oppression in order to keep it? These are just a few of the great ideas that created great films.
The premise of The Box: What if you are presented with a box that has a button on top that, when pushed, will do two things: cause a person you don't know to die and give you $1,000,000 in cash. Great premise, but The Box has a very basic flaw: it's excruciatingly boring.
I mean B-O-R-I-N-G boring. Buy it on DVD and play it to cure insomnia boring. Bring a date so at least you'll have something pleasant to look at boring. Boring to the point that you begin to think about other things you'd rather be doing, such as washing dishes or giving a cat a bath.
It's also completely and totally ridiculous, tossing logic and reason into the wind as it goes from point A to point Stupid before finally reaching its dim conclusion. This, I have no problem with. Writer/director Richard Kelly has done ridiculous before, and done it well. His debut film, Donnie Darko, made about as much sense as a David Lynch film the first time around.
Darko, like The Box, ignored plausibility in favor of interesting and so out-of-the-ordinary that you could never see it coming. But it was also filled with something that Box misses dearly: interesting characters that were funny, nice and likable. I initially liked Darko just because I liked Donnie, a teenager with a lot more to deal with then the usual hormones. But Norma and Arthur Lewis (Cameron Diaz and James Marsden) are simple versions of more interesting characters. Both performances are forced and none of their reactions seem normal - they act big against big situations when they should play it low-key.
It's the opposite of what worked in The Time Traveler's Wife, another film with a ridiculous plot. But the characters in Wife responded logically and naturally - I never questioned them at all. With Box, you wonder what hair-brained notions they're using to make decisions for the entire film.
It would also help if there seemed to be any point to The Box, but I couldn't find much aside from general pessimism about the human race. Most films of this nature try to find some humanity, some good to contrast the bad in these situations, but Box sticks with the dark side.
In a way, I'm speechless because I expected so much better from Kelly. After Darko, I told many people to keep an eye out for this innovative, adventurous filmmaker. Now, it's hard to believe he directed a film this overacted, confusing and boring. It's not just a step back - he's fallen from a very high place to a very low one.
The Box, rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some violence and disturbing images, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.