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Domestic Disturbance

Often, one of the funniest parts of a DVD is the commentary track. With Domestic Disturbance (2001), a big chuckle comes when director Harold Becker (who sounds about 110 years old) discusses the "documentary feel" he achieves with his film. A film in which a stepdad who looks like Vince Vaughn stabs his shady criminal friend who looks like Steve Buscemi and stuffs his body in a kiln? Where's that documentary? That's not to say Buscemi, Vaughn, or even star John Travolta aren't good here, they're great — though Travolta, curiously, has been acting lately with a lot of cotton in his mouth ("Thish ish a domeshtic dishturbance.") The actors hit their lines perfectly, imbuing their roles with that extra something that usually makes for a superior movie-watching experience (Buscemi is extra something enough). Nonetheless, Domestic Disturbance turns what could have been a deliciously fun bit of divorced-daddy camp and turns it into an unclever, rather lazy thriller that neither thrills, chills, nor delights. Had the film just went ahead with Travolta's "You so much as touch one hair on my son's head!" lines to greater degree, and more of Vaughn's Mommie Dearest moments where he yells at his stepson about how much he sucks at baseball, we could watch the thing for hours. The story has boat-builder Frank Morrison (Travolta) engaged in a very modern situation: He's divorced, but remains close to his 12-year old son Danny (a great child actor in Matt O'Leary), and he wishes the best for his ex-wife Susan (Teri Polo), who's about to marry new guy in town Rick Barnes (Vaughn). Handsome, rich and charismatic, Rick is a catch by all normal standards. But of course, there's just something about him that Frank doesn't like. We first get a glimpse into what's "wrong" when, on the idyllic day of the wedding, in walks the outsider, Ray (Buscemi). It's a wonderful scene — watching all these "normal" people enjoying their square wedding while a shady-looking Buscemi chain-smokes, downs mixed drinks, and looks more interesting than everyone else. Frank starts asking questions, and we quickly learn Ray is a past Rick wishes to bury — and that he does, accidentally in front of his stepson. Danny narks on Rick to Frank, setting into motion the "terror" to come from living with a psychotic murderer who looks like the guy from Swingers. Frank believes his son because Danny "never lies to me" (and because, apparently, his ex-wife is an idiot) and against the odds, attempts to protect his boy from this murderous interloper. Domestic Disturbance is expertly shot, and the actors muddle through the inferior script and direction. The underrated, versatile Vaughn is just weird enough to inject some crooked charm into the mainstream picture, and Buscemi is well, Buscemi (so why kill him off so early?) — but they can't carry the film. However, assuming this picture's target audience consists of minvan-driving soccer moms, they'll root for Travolta and enjoy a few scares. (A side-note: This is the film where Buscemi was stabbed while hanging out at a bar with a rowdy, girlfriend-macking Vaughn. At least they were enacting some real domestic disturbances of their own. Maybe that's the "documentary feel" Becker was talking about.) Paramount's DVD offers a clean anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 (French audio and English subtitles are also on board). Extras include a long-winded commentary by Becker (though we do learn Buscemi improvised the film's best line, "Where are all the adult bookstores in this town?"), deleted scenes, storyboards, and a trailer. Keep-case.
— Kim Morgan

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