Movie Review: The Box (Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella) 2009

Posted: December 4, 2011 in Drama

Arthur Lewis (Marsden) works for NASA as an astronaut on Langley Virginia.  He is hoping to be sent into space for his next mission, but is rejected because he failed the psychological exam.  Arthur’s wife, Norma (Diaz ) is a private school teacher, who is just informed that her teacher’s discount will no longer apply to his son.  Norma also has a badly deformed foot, from overexposure to an x-ray machine.   She would like a prosthetic device to get rid of her limp.  Arthur and Norma are both feeling the financial squeeze.  Just when they feel most desperate for cash, a man named Arlington Steward (Langella) a man with a horribly deformed face shows up with a button and a suitcase.  Press the button, and get 1 million dollars, but if Arthur or Norma do press the button, someone they do not know will die.  Norma does press the button, Steward shows up on their doorstep, gives the Lewis’ their money, and tells them that someone else will now get the chance to kill someone that person does not know.  Are the Lewis’ next on the hitlist?  Who is Steward and what is this machine he built?

This movie intends to be a thriller, but ends up being dull.  It asks questions it has no intention of ever answering.  Who does Steward work for?  Is it the government?  Was Steward sent by aliens?  Is he an angel sent from God?  Is this story a treatise on morality?  Or is it about the evils of government spying?  Or is it about supernatural or extraterrestrial intervention in human affairs?  I’ll be damned if I know, it could be about any or all of those things.  That’s what makes it such a frustrating movie to watch, there is no right answer to the questions this movie raises.  I do know why the movie was set in the 1970’s however, no one in their right mind-post 9/11, would open an unmarked Box, left by a stranger.  I think I read the story that the Box was based on in I Am Legend, but am not sure. There is a lot of talk of disfigurement and disability in this movie which drags the mood down.

The acting is awful.  Diaz is many things, but she is not a character actor.  In this movie she is saddled with a bad Southern accent, and limp, neither of which she can handle.  Marsden, who I liked in 27 Dresses and the X men movies,  looks like he is in a stupor, looking for the nearest exit.  I’m trying to forget the horrible Nixon impersonation that Langella did in Frost Nixon, but this movie won’t make me forget that role.  This makes two unintelligible movies Diaz has made, the first being Vanilla Sky, both of which I have sat through, and both of which I regret watching deeply.

The  Box.  An empty package.


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