Thursday, September 5, 2013

Little Richard: The Box

Sorry, Richard.  I have nothing against Richard Kelly, but, well, he seems to be a one-film wonder.  That one film is, obviously, Donnie Darko.  What has followed that film has been, well, not good.  It took years to get his next 'magnum opus' made.  That film: Southland Tales.  It was supposedly designed as a 9-Part tale involving 6 comics and three films.  Pretty big, huh?  He got 2 comics and one film.  Not so big, it seems.  More importantly, the final product released didn't do well, leading to some serious confidence issues with the studio.  What happened next?  Well, much like M. Night Shyamalan, he was given a 'safe' project.  In M. Night's case, it was The Last Airbender.  In Kelly's case, it was an adaptation of a story called 'Button, Button' by the late Richard Matheson.  Sorry, Mr. Matheson.  In the same year, we also get S. Darko, an embarrassing 'sequel' with only one returning Cast Member.  Could this be worse?  Well, it's not good.  It has some good elements and probably is a good story.  If you could take the good parts on their own, it would be an easy recommendation.  As it is, it's got a lot of problems.  To see some of them, read on...
A mysterious man drops a box off at a house owned by 'Cyclops' and one of 'Charlie's Angels.'  The box is a casing for a button that may/may not do something weird.

Just to note: The Box is an odd title for this film.  Why not The Button?  Is it any more silly than The Box?
Cameron Diaz is a Teacher with a messed-up foot, while James Marsden in a NASA Scientist who fails to qualify as an Astronaut.  It's here we see one of the film's problems...

The reveal of Diaz's foot would have more impact if we actually knew her, as opposed to having it occur in the first ten minutes.  With as much time as they dick around in the Second Act, they had to rush this part?
The box's owner (Frank Langella) arrives on cue.  Him and his partial-face explain that if they push the button, someone they don't know will die and they will get $1 Million (do your own Dr. Evil voice as you read this).
Will they push the button?  Will they not push the button?  They do.

I suppose that this is a Spoiler, but would there really be a movie if they didn't?
It's here that things fall apart.

You see, not content to just make the film a 'Morality Play' and have them live with the possible consequences of their 'greed,' the film turns into a bizarre, conspiracy tale. what you wanted your movie to be?  Look- you're hurting Brita!
So yeah, it's a tale of conspiracies and tests for humanity.  This is all so...ugh.
Save me from this pretentious bullshit, Santa!  It's only September, but get off your ass...please.
Government conspiracies!  NSA misdeeds!  People meeting at night in front of Warehouses!

This is what you get from The Box.  Were you expecting a character study in Greed vs. Morality?  Screw that noise!
I won't SPOIL the Ending, but I will say that it's similar enough to the 1980's Twilight Zone version, only over-complicated and silly like Kelly seems to do to everything.

Seriously, read Matheson's original story (or at least a summary).  THAT is a good Twist Ending.  This...has many problems.  The End.
Everything about this shows what could have been.  Seriously, how hard is this?  Just for comparison: the 1980's Version of the tale.  Done in the 1-Hour Format, the Episode runs around 44 minutes long.  The WHOLE thing is built around the Button and whether or not to press it.  Aside from the changed Ending (which this one uses somewhat anyhow), that's how you do it!  Instead, Matheson constructed an elaborate and silly reasoning for the Button itself.  This ruins what the focus of the story should be entirely.  On top of that, it's full of either holes or just plain confusing things.  You get Water Doors, mysteriously-caused ailments and all sorts of convenient things.  So much of this is not based on chance and what choices you make- it's rigged in favor of the house.  Other than literally forcing you to push the Button, the people/forces behind it just plain cheat.  The whole thing is just rigged in their favor and it really takes a bite out of the 'moral choices' behind the whole thing.  Speaking of bad things, did we need a sub-plot involving Diaz's foot and a mold being made for it.  Furthermore, did her disfigurement add anything to the story?  Hell, did Langella's?  In summary, there's a great story- Button, Button- buried in this convoluted mess.  Even a replacement Donnie Darko couldn't help this one.
Next up, a quirky film that's been sitting on my shelf for two weeks.  Will this Troma release by Philippe Mora be worth it?  Stay tuned...

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