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Harold Becker
John Travolta, Vince Vaughn, Teri Polo, Matthew O'Leary, Steve Buscemi
Lewis Colick

He will do anything to protect his family.
Box Office:
Budget $53 million.
Opening weekend $14.033 million on 2910 screens.
Domestic gross $45.207 million.
Rated PG-13 for violence, brief sexuality and language.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround
French Dolby Surround
English; Closed-captioned

Runtime: 89 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 4/16/2002

• Audio Commentary With Director Harold Becker
• Deleted Scenes With Director’s Commentary
• Storyboards
• Trailer


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Domestic Disturbance (2001)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Does John Travolta just choose which films to accept at random? It sure seems that way, though I suppose picking projects out of a hat should actually result in more successes than he’s experience of late. A look down his résumé for the last five years or so shows an unrelenting string of dogs.

Add to that list 2001’s Domestic Disturbance. The flick flopped at the box office, and for good reason. It offers a trite and predictable thriller that fails to achieve anything distinctive.

In Disturbance, we meet Frank Morrison (Travolta) and his family. They’re a disjointed group, for he and ex-wife Susan (Teri Polo) split some time ago. Though apart, they continue to care for 12-year-old son Danny (Matthew O’Leary) well, and they maintain an amicable relationship.

Susan plans to marry Rick Barnes (Vince Vaughn), a relative newcomer to their peaceful community along the Maryland shore. A tycoon, he’s made a big name for himself during his few months in Southport, as he’s become the town’s darling. He seems like the perfect guy, but Danny resists his charms.

Frank doesn’t seem wild about Rick either, but to better facilitate the varying relationships, he goes along with Susan’s idea that he should buddy up with Rick; Danny takes his cues from his dad, so this might make him more receptive to Rick’s presence.

The idea seems to work, but after the wedding, Rick’s dark side starts to emerge. He becomes distracted at his own wedding when mysterious Ray Coleman (Steve Buscemi) appears, and as Rick and Danny play catch, he demonstrates a nasty temper.

After another blowup with Mom and stepdad, Danny hides away in Rick’s truck to try to get to Frank’s place. They take a detour when Rick stops to meet with Ray. They drive off and Rick soon stabs Ray to death. Danny witnesses this, of course, and tries to tell the authorities. However, no one believes him - no one except Frank, that is.

From there, the film follows Frank’s attempts to protect his son and deal with Rick. Of course, Rick eliminates all evidence of the crime, and chronic liar Danny even recants at one point. However, Frank maintains that his son told the truth, which is accurate; Rick threatened Danny enough to make the boy retract his statement.

It’s not difficult to see where Disturbance will go with all of this, and the film doesn’t offer a very entertaining or exciting journey. We’ve seen this kind of material a million times in the past, and nothing accomplished here makes the tale lively or fresh. Instead, it just feels like more of the same old thing.

Disturbance suffers from the excessive clarity given to its characters. These folks don’t operate in a world of grays; they’re either good or bad, with little in between those concepts. Sure, Danny’s a liar and a runaway, but he’s a troubled kid who seems loving, smart and caring at heart. Susan also makes some misjudgments, but never do we believe that she cares about anything other than Danny’s best interests.

Still, at least those two show some nuances. Frank and Rick are cartoon characters. Vaughn seems to still think he’s in the 1998 remake of Psycho; he plays Rick as such a twitchy nutbag that it’s tough to believe he warmed up the townsfolk.

As for Frank, Travolta does nothing terribly wrong with the role, though he brings little spark to it. Unfortunately, the problems stem from the script, which paints Frank as such a true blue hero. I guess it’s easy to see why Travolta would take this kind of part, since Frank’s such a great guy. However, he lacks any depth or spirit outside of self-righteous indignation.

Disturbance might work better had it possessed some actual suspense. For example, the story would have benefited if they didn’t betray so quickly that Rick was evil. Had the tale possessed some ambiguity in that regard, it could have been more intriguing. However, since we knew so much about Rick, the film contained no suspense; everything that occurred was an absolute foregone conclusion.

Frankly, Domestic Disturbance felt like a TV movie. It suffered from a predictable story, flat characters and nothing to make it stand out from the crowd. While competently executed, Disturbance failed to make an impact on me.

The DVD Grades: Picture A- / Audio B+ / Bonus C+

Domestic Disturbance appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall the disc offered a fine picture that showed very few concerns.

Sharpness appeared solid. Throughout the film, I saw virtually no instances of softness or fuzziness. The movie remained crisp and distinct at all times. Jagged edges and moiré effects presented no issues, and I saw no signs of edge enhancement. In regard to print flaws, I noticed a couple of specks of grit, but otherwise the flick remained clean.

Disturbance offered a fairly naturalistic palette, and the DVD replicated those tones well. The colors consistently looked accurate and vivid, as they showed no bleeding, noise or other concerns. Black levels also seemed deep and dark, while shadow detail was clear and appropriately dense. As a whole, the image remained very fine, just as one would expect from such a recent film.

Also good was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Domestic Disturbance. Though not an active soundfield, it seemed natural and vivid. Mostly the track featured good general ambience. Music displayed nice stereo presence from the front as well as support from the rear. The front showed good atmospheric effects in the forward channels and provided decent support from the surrounds when appropriate. Outdoors scenes demonstrated reasonably environmental effects; a thunderstorm offered the strongest aspect of the mix.

Audio quality seemed fine for the most part. Some speech suffered from mild edginess, but that concern remained minor. Dialogue usually appeared natural and warm, without problems related to intelligibility. Effects remained bright and lively, with no signs of distortion and with good depth and accuracy. Music fared best of all. The score sounded vivid and smooth, as the music showed good dynamics and clarity. Bass response seemed taut and deep at all times. Ultimately, the soundtrack of Domestic Disturbance provided a reasonably solid auditory experience.

We find a smattering of supplements on this DVD. First up we get an audio commentary from director Harold Becker, who provides a running, screen-specific piece. Unfortunately, I found it to be a fairly dull one. Becker mainly offers general notes about the characters and the story. The track suffers from too many empty spots and too little useful material. Occasionally Becker offers some decent remarks about various aspects of the production, but those moments occur infrequently.

Next we discover a collection of deleted scenes. In addition to the six cut segments, we receive a two-minute audio introduction from director Becker, who explains the general reasoning behind the need for some edits. It’s a nice explanation of his overall mindset that offers a good introduction to the scenes.

As for the clips themselves, they run between 26 seconds and two minutes, 13 seconds for a total of six minutes, 11 seconds of footage. The shots mainly extend existing bits and offer little. The totally new parts seem redundant, like a clip in which Rick again threatens Danny. Becker’s commentary usually reveals why he cut the scenes and he lets us know about that process; he even indicates that he wishes he’d kept some of them. Becker should have always told us why he omitted the sequences, but his remarks still add some useful content.

As always, Paramount includes both English and French subtitles for the deleted scenes. (Though it seems odd these extras provide French text but the movie itself doesn’t.) On the negative side, the deleted scenes offer no “play all” option, something that should be a given for this sort of collection.

In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer, we find the Storyboards area, in which we have two sets of stills. For “Ray’s Murder Sequence”, we get 98 screens of drawings, while “Fire Sequence” includes 43 frames of boards. Most of the screens feature two drawings, but a few have one or three. Overall, they’re decent examples of this kind of art, but they didn’t do much for me.

Unfortunately, the movie itself failed to engage me. Domestic Disturbance offered a predictable and lifeless affair that never threatened to become lively or interesting. While not a terrible piece of work, it appeared relentlessly bland and left me cold. The DVD featured very good picture and sound as well as a few moderately useful extras. While it provides a decent DVD, Domestic Disturbance is simply too dull and predictable a movie for me to recommend it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.2 Stars Number of Votes: 20
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