The Box Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated November 6th, 2009 at 10:33 pm,

Short Version: Do yourself a favor and find the original 30 minute Twilight Zone episode of The Box and watch that instead.

the box review The Box Review
Screen Rant reviews The Box

Well this is going to be a short review because I don’t want to spend any more time on this movie than I have to. The Box is based on Button, Button – a very short story written by Richard Matheson that was used for an old episode of the classic TV series The Twilight Zone. It was written and directed by Richard Kelly, the man behind the cult classic Donnie Darko and the poorly received Southland Tales.

BTW, personally I think it’s obvious, but this review does tell you whether or not they push the button.

The film takes place in 1976, around the time we started sending probes to Mars. This is the (very thin) reason the film takes place back then – it could have easily taken place today, but then the pacing of the film might not have made as much sense (I’ll get to that later). Cameron Diaz and James Marsden star as a mid-30s couple living in Virginia. He works at Nasa as an optical engineer but has aspirations to be a space shuttle astronaut, she works as a teacher at a private school at which their son attends. They’re living paycheck to paycheck and money is tight (and despite seeming to be a bright guy, mid-30s Marsden is driving a Corvette despite their financial status).

They receive a package wrapped in plain brown paper early one morning: A black box with a glass dome covering a red button. Very simple, but well-crafted. It is locked, and later that day the mysterious Arlington Steward (the ever sophisticated Frank Langella) arrives with a key to the box, a briefcase with one million dollars and half his face CGI’d away and scarred in a terrible burn injury. He makes the offer: Press the button and somewhere, someone you do not know will die, but you will then receive one million dollars tax free.

Decisions, decisions.

Well a couple of things have coincidentally (or, not so much)  just happened to cause the financial noose to tighten a bit more, making the deal tempting them (to the wife in particular). They vacillate between calling the police (telling anyone and the deal will be off), just returning the box, and assuming that even if the guy IS crazy, maybe they can get the money. After all, the person killed “might be some murderer on death row.”

Frankly, maybe it’s just me (and I really hope it’s NOT), but the movie lost me here. If someone showed up at your door and made this offer, with the guarantee that SOMEONE WOULD DIE if you pushed the button, would you? I sure as hell wouldn’t, even for a million dollars.

The husband does decide to open the box, not knowing what to find, but it’s just empty – not even a transmitter to notify anyone if the button had been pushed. Still, he is leery. In the end, the wife pushes the button, Steward arrives with the money, and assures them that the box will be given to someone they do not know.

Didn’t see THAT one coming.

Of course writer/director Richard Kelly realizes this, and in order to keep the movie *cough* interesting *cough* puts in a ton of oddities that could’ve drawn you in with the mystery, but instead just get annoying as they continue to pile on top of each other. In the end what made for a great, short morality tale is made so convoluted by trying to stretch it out into a two hour movie and give explanation to the hows and the whys that you’ll be dying to be done with the movie and get out of the theater.

I found it interesting that it was set in the 70s because the pacing of the film reminded me of movies from that time period. Looking back, a lot of the movies made then seem agonizingly slow in moving the story along, and that’s the case here. In the last 30 minutes or so it feels so completely disjointed, jumping helter-skelter from scene to scene that you’ll wonder what the editor and director were thinking.

I’ll give it two stars for concept and Frank Langella, but that’s being generous – I wouldn’t even call this a rental.

Our Rating:

2 out of 5
(Okay)

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TAGS: 2 star movies, the box

135 Comments

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  1. Ouch

    So Kelly is a one hit wonder?

    Vic, how much was your review influenced by the fact that you yourself would not push the button (as in, you can’t relate to the situation)?

    Do you think it’d fare better for those that can get into the story, get attached to the characters and see themselves in the role?

  2. So a 30 minute (with Commercials)can pull it off much better than a 115 minutes movie.

    I don’t know if that tells something about how sucky this film was, or how great the Twilight Zone was!

    As a huge fan of the Twilight Zone, I’d like to think both!

  3. So… since you don’t recommend anyone to watch this, how about just spoiling it and telling us what happens including the ending?? You can say ***SPOILER*** before you start just in case, but I know I’m not going to watch it so I don’t mind you just telling me, haha. :-D

  4. @ogb

    Even that notwithstanding, it was very convoluted and overly complicated IMHO.

    But you can always drop a 10-spot and find out for yourself. :)

    Vic

  5. Damn,

    I was really hoping Kelly would make up for Southland tales.

    Donnie Darko is still one of the favorites.

    I’m still interested in seeing it though

  6. thanks for spoiling it. awesome.

    One of the reasons its set in 76 is because Kelly’s father worked for NASA then and its semi based about his own experiences in that time period, not so much the story.

  7. Spoiling what? If you mean that she pushes the button, you realize they show that in the trailer right??

  8. I was wondering which ending they’d go with.
    In the short story, the husband dies because the wife “Never really knew him” which is pretty lame imo.

    So does the cgi scarring on Lagella’s face look as bad as it does in the ads?

  9. This has to be the lousiest movie I have even seen. The acting was very poor, and music just horrible…..The only thing good was the bag of popcorn I ate..
    Save yourself money. Any other movie would be better.

  10. They don’t push the button in the trailer. They push a button on the wall.

  11. @Steev

    Please. How can anyone go into this movie NOT knowing they push the button? That is not a spoiler.

    Vic

  12. I was robbed of two hours of my life. HOW COULD THEY GET FINANCING FOR THIS LOAD OF HOT OOZZING DRIPPING FLY COVERED PIECE OF @%#^*))&@!@$^^$%^%$^%$$
    PS SAVE YOUR$ GET A RENTAL . . WATCH CASAABLANCA!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Comical,,,,!!!
    What if you push the button using a long stick made of wood ?

    Hilarious review sounds like a joke of a story… Hey pull my finger,,, “insert fart noise here Vic”

    Was “Southland Tales” that bad? I’ve got it here somewhere on dvd…
    I watched Babylon AD last night. Hahaaa!!! Yeah it sucked. :-(

  14. worst movie of my life!! do not see it!!

  15. Oh for god sakes. They could easily go the entire movie without pushing it. I havn’t seen the twilight zone episode but all the same Kelly could have changed the story anyway just so it wasn’t the same as the episode. I wouldn’t think Kelly would be the guy to just remake stories exactly the same. It is a spoiler. There are people who are not sure and I was one of them.

    So once again thanks for ruining it.

  16. @ 790

    Yes,Southland Tales is horrible.The only good thing about it is seeing Sarah Michelle Gellar all porned up,and The Rock actually did a good job acting in it,even if it was total trash.

    Then again,I’m one of the few people who did think Donnie Darko was that great either,so decide for yourself.

  17. @Steev

    Dude, whatever. Anyone who reads this site regularly knows I don’t spoil movies. It was OBVIOUS they were going to push the button or WHAT would be the story?

    And have you seen it? Seeing the movie spoils it, because it’s just not very good.

    Vic

  18. Lol Longshanks,,,

    Thanks man, but I already bought it months ago. I think I picked it up used for 3 bucks,,,

    All save it for my Crappy Film Sunday Dvd Fiesta.
    Sometimes watching crappy films can be fun with the right mix of mexican food, booze and smoke,,,lol

  19. @steev

    Go watch the trailer again, you see her pushing the button in the trailer.

  20. Hmmm… I was honestly interested in seeing this movie, but it sounds like it’s pretty bad. Honestly they got some pretty terrible actors to do it besides Frank Langella. Cameron Diaz and James Marsden really aren’t that great IMHO, but maybe that’s just me? I might rent this from Redbox for a dollar when it comes out on DVD, but it doesn’t sound like it’s worth a trip to the theater.

  21. Kevin Carr, A- wtf?

  22. What a right on review. Too bad me and my friend went to see it earlier today and found out first hand. My friend wanted to leave before the end but I thought I wanted to see the ending since we were there. Boy, I should have just got up and left when my friend urged me to.

  23. -The button is pushed by what seems to be only women.
    -What would have happened had Arthur chose to witness a glimpse of damnation instead of salvation?
    -Is Arlington sent by God or aliens?
    -Nose bleeds are because the individuals realize they are being controlled and attempt to fight against it. A hint is given that some may even withstand the control altogether. What does this say about free will?
    -Does pushing the button mean that the one after you that pushes the button will die or that you, because you pushed the button, is in the truth the one that will die and does that mean that you do not know yourself?
    -How is the test actually viewed and judged because in the end Norma says that Arlington smiled when he talked of salvation? Does Norma gain salvation upon her death?
    -What does the quote Arlington tells Norma mean and does it also say something about free will?

    So many little things in this movie requires a lot of thought. I think many are just taking it as face value and not realizing the implications within it.

  24. @steev

    Actually, I have to watch my wording, it’s not in the “trailer,” it’s in a tv commercial.

  25. HUGE SPOILERS BELOW:

    -The button is pushed by what seems to be only women.

    Yes, I noticed that. And?

    -What would have happened had Arthur chose to witness a glimpse of damnation instead of salvation?

    His life would not have turned out well. Not that it did anyway, having to murder his wife in order to save their son.

    -Is Arlington sent by God or aliens?

    Aliens, obviously.

    -Nose bleeds are because the individuals realize they are being controlled and attempt to fight against it. A hint is given that some may even withstand the control altogether. What does this say about free will?

    That we have it and the “magic” technology was stronger than some of the victims.

    -Does pushing the button mean that the one after you that pushes the button will die or that you, because you pushed the button, is in the truth the one that will die and does that mean that you do not know yourself?

    It means that the previous person to press the button will die. The only way to NOT die after pressing the button is if the next person does not press it.

    -How is the test actually viewed and judged because in the end Norma says that Arlington smiled when he talked of salvation? Does Norma gain salvation upon her death?

    That’s where it goes new age. According to the film you don’t have to believe in God yet you still get to go to heaven.

    -What does the quote Arlington tells Norma mean and does it also say something about free will?

    It’s a completely humanistic view, further adding to the ridiculousness that there is “paradise” after death within the context of the film.

    - So many little things in this movie requires a lot of thought. I think many are just taking it as face value and not realizing the implications within it.

    I didn’t take it at face value, it was just too convoluted, drawn out and disjointed.

    Vic

  26. @Devin

    BTW, those are all good and valid questions. :)

    Vic

  27. @steev

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2sx-M92Tmc

    Look at 14 seconds. Yah, yah, they cut the moment before she hits it, but come on, you can tell that she hit the button…

  28. @Devin

    Those are interesting questions and if I would have been smart enough to ask myself them during the movie maybe it would have been better to me. I believe my friend who I saw the movie with has ADHD so when I realized I was getting impatient I was too preoccupied with his wanting to bolt for the door to really enjoy a movie that I too was getting frustrated with.

  29. Sounds Like crappy movie.
    Thanks for the heads up Vic.
    It looked crappy in the ads too.