Sunday, February 27, 2011

Review: The Box (2009)

Director: Richard Kelly
Starring: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden

…you’ve got to be kidding me. You REALLY have GOT to be kidding me with this. I mean…god, who ever thought green-lighting this movie would be in any way productive to the world? Sigh. People, this is something of an absolute. A film so mindbogglingly bad that it defies all forms of written language even trying to describe it. But I will try to, anyway…for this, folks, is The Box. Vomit, cower in fear and cry now while you can; it’s going to be a long ride.

The movie starts off with some fake ‘reports’ from a police department, I guess, about a guy who got burned in a horrible accident. We then switch to Virginia in 1976, where Cameron Diaz and James Marsden are a couple living in a stereotypical 70s style home. They get woken up in the middle of the night to go outside, where they receive a package. In the kitchen, they open it up to find another, smaller box – what, is this one of those psychological riddles about finding boxes inside boxes inside boxes? – and a note, saying that Mr. Steward will visit them soon.

Of course, this is taken very calmly and without any kind of bewilderment whatsoever. It’s not like in the real world where this kind of thing would be highly suspicious and would disrupt the flow of their day. No, in this fucked up reality, we just go right along with our daily, mundane, shitty lives like always! Their son comes out and James Marsden looks at him like he has no idea who he is. Get used to that confused schoolboy look – Marsden exploits it like a cheap whore.

"My face seems to be frozen in an expression of wide-eyed boyish charm!"

The next day, the son, named Walter, is standing outside waiting for the bus and also mouthing off like a little douche at his mom for no good reason. You know, I'm against child abuse like anyone else, but these scenes are really pushing that limit for me!

At school, Cameron Diaz is apparently a teacher too, as she teaches a rather small class about Sartre’s famous No Exit, which I’d much rather be partaking in than this movie. A student in her class asks her why she limps; even though we never actually see her limping if you watch close enough – if there’s any artistic intent behind that, it’s lost on me. He then tells her to take off her shoe, and she does it, revealing her deformed foot. Why does she do this instead of being a responsible teacher and tell the kid to stuff it up his ass? Because this movie was written by an idiot with no conception of reality, of course.

What’s that? You say the same idiot wrote Donnie Darko?

Well, now it all makes sense.

Seriously, WORST TEACHER EVER if she lets her students push her around like that. I mean c’mon, grow a little bit of a backbone! So then pretty much the next ten or fifteen minutes of the movie is all about Cameron Diaz’s deformed foot. Because…I guess that’s really all they have. You really, really want me to turn this movie off fast, don’t you?

"Wait! I'm here to deliver a performance you will forget 5 minutes after the movie ends!"

Oh, wait, no; we also have Frank Langella showing up with half of his face deformed and rotted off from some accident – remember the thing from the beginning about the accident that happened? Yeah, apparently he’s the victim. He is also the mysterious ‘Mr. Steward’ from before. He tells Diaz that if she pushes the button on the box, someone she doesn’t know will die. But she will also receive a million dollars! He says if she doesn’t push the button in 24 hours, he will come back and give it to someone else instead. Basically what the whole story is trying to go for is that these aliens or demigods or something, it’s never clearly explained, are ‘testing’ humanity to see if they’re ‘good’ enough not to be exterminated. If enough people don’t push the button, humanity gets to live.

Okay, we’re just going to have to make some fucking bullet points here, because there are just too many things wrong with this plot:

- Who says these guys are accurate judges? What gives them the right? I don’t even care if they’re godlike beings; they can FUCK RIGHT OFF if they think they’re going to judge all mankind based on whether or not people push a damn button!

- Ripping off Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy ain’t cool, man.

- Why is this such a complicated plot? Aren’t there any…simpler ways to go about judging if humanity sucks too much now? I mean…this is REALLY frigging elaborate!

- The plot LITERALLY boils down to pushing a big red button. An old cartoony cliché is the basis for this intense psychological thriller!

- Don’t these aliens have anything more important to do? They don't have any intergalactic businesses to attend to so they just screw around with us? That's...weak. Really weak.

Luckily, though, Langella came at exactly the right time, as the family is having some heavy financial troubles, so then we get some stupid, wall-banging scenes of Marsden and Diaz trying to figure out what they will do with the box. I especially love this one scene where they’re about to go to bed and Diaz tells Marsden to turn off the Christmas tree. She says that if they don’t turn it off, it could start a fire and kill them all. Marsden’s reply? “Everyone dies.” Yes, they did indeed just turn a conversation about CHRISTMAS LIGHTS into a PHILOSOPHICAL ENDEAVOR. Be amazed! Seriously, guys, don’t try to be philosophers. You’re in a movie about aliens and big red buttons on boxes. GET SOME PERSPECTIVE.

"You think we should fire our agents after this?"
"Oh, definitely. Even going into porn would be a step up after this one."

So the next day, they sit around and deliberate some more until Diaz remembers – big shock – that the plot is supposed to move forward! So she just goes ahead and pushes the button. I don’t think they ever actually use any of the million dollars, but James Marsden does start to piss Frank Langella off by spying on him and using his cop father-in-law to dig up dirt on him. Which really GRINDS FRANK’S GEARS, man. So now Frank threatens the family and sends weird bleeding-nose zombies that he possessed over to Diaz’s house to creep them out. That’s really classy, isn’t it?

Oh, and get this; the super powered extraterrestrial beings in charge of this insanity haven’t perfected the mind-control thing yet. Yeah, not exactly qualified to be down on Earth messing with us then, are you? That’s like having a doctor come in to perform a life or death surgery on you only to have him say he forgot his eyeglasses today and hasn’t learned the final step of the surgery yet. How incompetent are these a-holes?

Yeah, and that isn’t even all yet! Apparently Langella’s character is actually just one of the aliens/extraterrestrial beings using the damaged dead body as a host. In addition to this, he has regenerative powers. But he does NOT use them to repair his face. How that makes sense, I will never know.

So then Diaz and Marsden both go to the library for different reasons. In a rather cruel choice of words Diaz tells the half-faced Frank Langella that she wants to see him face to face. That isn’t really important, but I thought it was pretty funny anyway. In the library, an old woman who is apparently Langella’s wife tells Marsden to follow her into this room where there are three pillars of water standing upright that are apparently – get THIS – doorways that can lead to either eternal damnation or personal salvation. Are we still in the same movie? What the fuck does this have to do with ANYTHING else in the film, at all?

Then Marsden gets sucked into one of them in a promo for the Universal Studios tie-in ride that will never exist, and the movie turns into 2001: A Space Odyssey. No, really. It pretty much rips off that hyperspeed warp sequence without changing a damn thing but the colors. Because this movie has no shame.

So after ripping off yet another classic work, Marsden gets dropped off back at home in a display of special effects that probably cost more than most of the rest of the film combined, and Diaz is already there herself. Why? How? Fuck it, insert your own answers.

Then at this wedding their son gets kidnapped, and so does Diaz for that matter. They’re taken, oddly enough, back to their own house…where Frank Langella is waiting. Again, doesn’t this guy have anything better to do with his time? Like clip his toenails? So he tells them some more rambling, overly complicated horseshit. Basically their son is blind and deaf, and if James Marsden does not shoot Cameron Diaz in the heart, their son will never be cured. But they will be allowed to keep the million dollars that we don’t even see them spend or talk about. And if Diaz does die, then their son will be cured to live in a world where his father murdered his mother in cold blood and it’s all his fault. Isn’t that just peachy?

…fuck this; I’m just going to end the review in one sentence: James Marsden kills his wife, their son is safe and someone else presses the button on the box as Marsden is arrested for his crimes.

That’ll be a fun story to tell in prison, won’t it? “No, no, man, there was this box, and my wife pressed the big red button on it, and then we got a million dollars, and then all this weird stuff started happening, and then Frank Langella with half his face gone told me I had to kill her or else my son would be blind and deaf.”

Yeah, not flying there, and it certainly isn’t flying here. The Box is a dud. It’s horrible beyond belief. You could fill several football fields with everything wrong with this movie – what I’ve done here is only the tip of the iceberg. This is truly, wholly loathsome, one of the rare films that has absolutely NOTHING about it that is likable. So don’t watch it. Stay as far away as possible!

But never fear, for next month comes...

He's coming for YOU!

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