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The Box an easy, fun Hollywood flick
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The Box an easy, fun Hollywood flick

by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

The Box
Now Playing


Here's the deal: Some guy leaves a box with a button on your doorstep. He lets you know that if you push the button, you'll get one million dollars. Sounds good, right? But if you push the button, someone you don't know will die. That complicates things?

The Box is a fun morality tale wrapped up as a quasi-sci-fi thriller set in '70s-era suburbia. Sure, there are more loose ends than a busy Saturday night at The Cuff, but who cares. I recommend you go the theater, get some popcorn, and sit back to enjoy seeing good folks make bad decisions and get their unseemly comeuppance from a mysterious dude with a really bad complexion.

Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur (James Marsden) are a young couple with a boy named Walter (Sam Oz Stone). Norma teaches at a private school while Arthur plugs away as a research scientist while dreaming of getting into the astronaut program at NASA. A mysterious stranger, Arlington Steward (Frank Langella), leaves the titular box at their door. In a moment of mercurial miscalculation, Norma presses the button.

The story is pretty simple. The consequences are, too. The filmmaking isn't.

Richard Kelly has proven he knows how to challenge us cinematically. His Donnie Darko causes only slightly fewer arguments among film geeks than Mulholland Drive, yet it is fascinating to watch whether you buy in or not. Southland Tales, the sprawling apocalyptic tale set in a futuristic L.A., takes a bit more patience, but is still completely original and intriguing. With The Box, he seems to be telling us, and Hollywood, that he can go mainstream. That's another way of saying he can give good box office.

Steven Soderbergh and Gus Van Sant are excellent at the "one for them, one for us" filmmaking schedule. Hopefully, Kelly can find a similar groove, tossing off well-crafted Hollywood movies between his movies that make us work for it.

Langella is a veteran actor who finally got some overdue props in 2008 for Frost/Nixon. He has a long resume that includes stage and screen. It would be easy to overlook his performance with its understated, creepy, and unemotional take on Arlington Steward, an un-villain who may or may not be dead and may or may not be an alien, I'm not telling. That said, he's perfect in the role.

James Marsden need do nothing but stand there.

In light of that erudite observation, I have some advice for Ms. Diaz: Never ever, for the rest of your well-deserved and successful career, under any circumstances, share the screen with Mr. Marsden again. And if you do share the screen with Mr. Marsden again under some unfortunate circumstance, do not allow them to put you in an another scene with him in a wet T-shirt. It does you no favors. He's more attractive than you.

The Box won't change your life. But if you want to get out of the rain for a while and watch a good movie, this is your ticket. The story is fun, the actors are excellent, and the cinematography is awesome. Don't expect to go for coffee afterward and hammer out the plot details; however, due to the terrific '70s-inspired set design you will see the best wallpaper since Barton Fink.

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