Disturbia, a new thriller starring teen heartthrob Shia LeBeouf is actually many movies in one. There’s the teen romance movie reminiscent of Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything. Next to that is an American Pie style randy teenager story butted up against the murderer-next-door theme borrowed from Rear Window. It’s like the weather in Canada. If you don’t like it, wait five minutes and it will change.
At the center of the shifting plots is Shia LeBeouf, who will be recognizable to anyone with kids under thirteen from his years on the Disney show Even Stevens. He plays Kale, a young man under house arrest for giving his Spanish teacher a black eye.
While confined to his house Kale develops voyeuristic tendencies, spying on his neighbors. He watches the nubile girl next door as she goes about her life, slowly falling in love with her as she works out or takes a swim. On the other side of the house is a mysterious man (David Morse) that Kale comes to believe is a killer. With the aid of the girl next door (Sarah Roemer) and his goofy friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) the housebound teen tries to prove that his neighbor isn’t the nice guy he seems to be.
Disturbia doesn’t better its source material, Rear Window, Say Anything and even American Pie are all better movies, but it does manage to meld the three with relative ease. Director D.J. Caruso handles the film’s shifts in tone gracefully, steering the audience through the romance, comedy to the chaotic finale. He shows a steady hand with the suspenseful aspects of the story, playing up the claustrophobia and voyeurism that push Kale to launch an investigation of his peculiar neighbor. He also manages to pack in the thrills with a minimum of blood and guts, keeping the movie solidly within its PG-13 parameters.
LeBeouf is a likeable actor who appears in virtually every frame of the film and really proves that he can carry a movie. Carrie Ann Moss isn’t given much to do in a stereotypical worried mom role, but David Morse is extra-creepy as the neighbor who may or may not have dead bodies embalmed in the walls of his suburban home.
Disturbia succeeds because it blends all its influences into one cohesive, entertaining package.