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"The Box" Review

Richard Kelly's filmmaking career needs to end and with the commercial failure of The Box it just may, deservedly so. This guy has been coasting on a cloud of overhype and emo adulation since his debut Donnie Darko and despite the catastrophic crash-and-burn of his follow-up, Southland Tales - a film so terrible that stars Sarah Michelle Gellar and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson barely stayed at the Cannes premiere party long enough to gather sympathy - another studio gave him money to indulge his worst urges. Hope you enjoyed the ride, Ricky, cuz the party's over.

The concept itself isn't bad: A financially overextended couple - Cameron Diaz and James Marsden (Cyclops from X-Men) - are presented a finely-crafted wooden box by a horrifically disfigured Frank Langella with a simple offer of $1 million in exchange for pressing the button. (Shouldn't the movie have been called The Button then?) Oh yeah, when they do press it, someone they don't know in the world will die. Hmmm, moral ambiguity worthy of a Twilight Zone episode.

Which is exactly what this is, an extended and Kellyfied version of the 1970 Richard Matheson (who also wrote the novel I Am Legend) short story Button, Button which was also made into a 1986 episode of the Twilight Zone. However, as the Wikipedia synopsis details, Kelly quickly dispenses with the bones of Matheson's morality tale and drags it into The Kelly Zone with all sorts of crap about Martians, mind control, teleportation, and cheat of a last act which tosses in a Hobson's Choice twist that causes more annoyance than horror.

It's Kelly's self-indulgence that attracts a small, but frighteningly loyal, cult of followers who are willing to play his silly games and read the accompanying graphic novels, pseudo-science texts, and web sites in an attempt to claim chin-stroking rights as someone who "gets" his malarkey. Whatever. It's codswallop and the fact that no grownups at the studio have been willing to call out the fact that he's not wearing clothes is on them; I'm sure their shareholders would be happy to push the button on them.

Score: 3/10. Watch it on someone else's cable while drinking beer and yelling, "Where's the wabbit?!?"


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