There are films that are bad, films that are awful, and then there’s The Box.
Norma and Arthur are a happy couple. Norma (Cameron Diaz) is a teacher, Arthur (James Marsden) works for NASA, and they live together with their young son Walter in hopes of one day moving out of Virginia for bigger and better things. Sadly, though, they end up suffering through hard times and don’t really know where to turn next. That is until the day a mysterious package ends up their doorstep along with a card saying that a Mr. Steward will show up later that evening to explain the contents. In the package is a simple box that has a giant red button and nothing else.
Later that day, Mr. Steward (Frank Langella) arrives and explains to Norma that two things will happen if she pushes the button. First of all, someone they don’t know somewhere will die. The second thing is that they will receive one million dollars tax free to live their lives contently and without worry. Of course, some arguing with their consciences as to what decision they should make with the box and it leads to conversations and situations the couple never expected. Little do they know that their choice is part of something much bigger and larger then they could ever imagine.
Sounds good doesn’t it? Kind of gives you the idea that we’d have a story of people having to live with their decision and wrestling with their conscience so much that it drives them crazy. I’ll spoil it for you right now and let you know that the film is just like that up until they push the button. Yep, they push it. But from that moment on is when things just get absolutely and incredibly stupid. To be perfectly honest with you, I’m not certain whether The Box has to do with aliens or mind control or outer space or dreams or what, but who cares now? There is just so much going on that has nothing to do with anything that it makes for sheer and total insanity. Not in a good way either because the only reason I kept watching at all was to see if they could top whatever idiocy they pulled minutes before. Let me give you a few examples.
~ Cameron Diaz was just horrible here as Norma. The woman was missing four toes on one foot and it was discussed repeatedly for a total of close to half an hour and ended up having nothing to do with the story at all. Diaz also had a horrible southern accent that she randomly dropped halfway through the duration. Yes, she really did.
~ Random piece signs being flashed in slow motion by strangers.
~ Why does the film take place in 1976? Can anyone explain that to me please?
That is just a few things that not necessarily bugged me, but kind of made me sit up and shake my head in confusion. Many people like this film and say that it makes perfect sense to them in the likes of The X-Files or Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In no way do I see the similarities or find The Box comparable to those films or anything actually worth watching.
All the insanity is shown in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format and here is something they got right. The film actually is quite beautiful and done perfectly without so much as a problem with transfer or color.
The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and it is not done nearly as well as the video quality is done. A lot of the dialogue is very hard to hear and almost seems as if they are whispering the whole time calling for me to adjust the volume constantly. All music and sound effects come through fine, but having the volume so high for the talking portions make it blow your eardrums out too.
Audio Commentary – Director/writer Richard Kelly sits alone for the commentary track and there was not a lot I could do to get into this track considering it meant watching the film for a second time. Kelly does explain a lot though and even gives way to how he included some personal moments from his life as part of the storyline. That explains the whole thing with Norma and her foot. Doesn’t make it any less stupid.
The Box: Grounded In Reality – Here is more with Kelly as he delves deeper into the personal aspects of his life he threw into The Box. It’s quite touching at times and shows a lot of respect and love for his parents, but it still bothers me because so much of it doesn’t fit into the film. I’m not trying to be totally judgmental here because it is nice, but it makes no sense. (10:42)
Music Video Prequels – Music videos with the film’s score playing over current and additional footage. (9:14)
Visual Effects Revealed – Three short featurettes break down a few of the special effects shown in the film including Mr. Steward’s face, the water columns, and making the city of Boston appear as if it is Virginia. Not bad honestly, but too short to really get going. (3:55)
In His Own Words – Here is an interview with author Richard Matheson as the eighty-three year old man discusses his career as a writer all the way back to his younger days. Not a bad idea, but why so short? (4:54)
Saying that The Box is a bad film isn’t necessarily an understatement, but almost a way of calling it something when I’m not really sure what to call it. It did not entertain me, did not make sense, did not keep me in suspense, did not frighten me, and did not make me want to even keep the blu-ray in my collection. The only thing it did was leave me scratching my head as to how a somewhat decent premise (as presented by the trailers) was botched so incredibly and taken off into a direction no-one would have ever seen coming. Special features on this aren’t really meaningful in any way considering the film itself is so lousy. Avoid this one at all costs.
Warner Home Video presents The Box. Directed by: Richard Kelly. Starring: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella. Written by: Richard Kelly & Richard Matheson. Running time: 116 minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released on DVD: February 23, 2010. Available at Amazon.com