`Domestic Disturbance' won't disturb anyone

Movie review

November 02, 2001|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Domestic Disturbance is strictly movie-of-the-week stuff. And not very good stuff, at that.

This is a relentlessly ordinary thriller in which a boy who's cried "wolf" too often tries to convince his father that his seemingly virtuous stepdad is a murderer. The film features a walk-through performance from John Travolta, a menacing turn by Vince Vaughn (what's else is new?), a weasely turn by Steve Buscemi (ditto) and no twists we don't see from a mile away. The end result isn't bad, but it's nothing to brag about.

Travolta is Frank Morrison, a boat builder living on Maryland's Eastern Shore. (Why was this film shot in North Carolina?) He's a good man in a dying profession, and he drinks to forget the pain, which cost him his marriage and custody of his son.

Still, he and his ex, Susan (Teri Polo), remain on good terms. And 12-year-old Danny (screen newcomer Matt O'Leary) adores him - so much that the boy is making life miserable for his mom and new stepfather, Rick Barnes (Vaughn).

Susan, Frank and Rick actually get along quite well, especially considering that Frank resents another man being a father to Danny. He also doesn't seem to have gotten over his feelings for Susan.

But Danny isn't buying it. He barely tolerates Rick, and when he learns that his mother is pregnant, he runs away. Unwisely, he hides in the back of his stepdad's truck - so he's present (and unseen) when Rick stabs to death an ex-con buddy (Buscemi) trying to get back the cash they had embezzled.

What's a kid to do - especially when dad, the one person to whom he's never lied, won't believe him?

The tagline for Domestic Disturbance promises "He'll do anything for his family," but that anything doesn't include much. Sure, Frank grabs Danny and insists he come live with him, a stunt that nearly gets him arrested on kidnapping charges. And he does amateur sleuthing that's little more than an Internet search and a check of newspaper archives. Oh, the genius.

This movie is filled with people who avoid the obvious. Susan supposedly loves Danny, and yet she forces him to live with a man he insists is a murderer. Might it not be a good idea to let him stay with Frank for a few days, until things blow over? Rick, trying to avoid being found by his former criminal cohorts, moves to the East Coast and becomes a high-profile guy with his name and face appearing in all the papers. Even the townspeople, unquestionably accept Rick as a new community pillar.

Domestic Disturbance was shot earlier this year, as studios were stockpiling films in case of a possible actor's strike. That may explain why this slapdash affair smells like a rush job. It doesn't explain why audiences would rush to the theater to see it.

Domestic Disturbance

Starring John Travolta, Vince Vaughn

Directed by Harold Becker

Released by Paramount Pictures

Rated PG-13 (Violence, sexuality, adult language)

Running time 93 minutes

Sun score * 1/2

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