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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Box (The)


I’m surprised there aren’t more people interested in seeing Cameron Diaz’s box. The national weekend grosses for her latest movie, The Box, shows that it earned only sixth place in the Top Ten movies at the box office and brought in an anemic $7.5 million dollars in its debut. Granted, at 37, Diaz is practically a dinosaur by Hollywood’s measure, her “best years” a decade behind her in an industry that treats actresses over the age of 28 as if they ought to be tossed in a wood chipper, but it amazes me that the star of both Charlie’s Angels and the Shrek franchise isn’t a bigger draw to a movie with her name over the title. Just the title alone ought to lure a few red-blooded men into the theater.


It’s a shame the film isn’t doing better financially because The Box has to be the best of the current crop of cerebral scarefests out right now. A hundred times scarier than Paranormal Activity and a thousand times smarter than The Fourth Kind, The Box is one of the creepiest movies I’ve seen in years. Sadly, there’s not much I can tell you about it because The Box is one of those sneaky little tales that starts like a simple enough story about one thing and turns out being something very much different by the ending credits.
I can give you an idea about the basic premise of The Box, or, more specifically, what unexpected visitor Arlington Steward (Frank Langella; Frost/Nixon) offers to 70’s suburbanites Norma (Diaz) and Arthur Lewis (James Marsden; 27 Dresses) at the beginning of the story.



When Mr. Steward appears he makes the couple a deal: he gives them a wooden box with a button on it and offers them $1 million dollars tax-free if they will push it. The catch? If they do, someone that they don’t know, somewhere in the world, will be killed. The moral dilemma is theirs to consider for the next 24 hours. It would take me about a millisecond to make up my mind, and my most important question to Mr. Steward would be “Can I only hit it once?” because I’d be tapping that button like a horny dog attached to a mail carrier’s leg. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I had a conscience once, but I lost it about the same time as I misplaced my virginity. I’m sure they are happy together, but I doubt I’ll ever see either again.



Of course there is much more to the tale than just these two sitting around in bad period fashions in front of eyeball-burning wallpaper while they wax poetic about whether to take the money and off somebody in the process. That would make for as big a bomb as watching Waiting for Godot starring Tom Arnold and Tori Spelling. Oh no, this is merely the tip of the iceberg of what goes on in The Box. The secrets involved are jaw-dropping in their intensity and source. What the Lewises don’t know (and the audience is made aware of just one step ahead of them) is that what is behind The Box has potentially earth-shattering consequences in ways that are barely imaginable.



Obviously, since this is a movie, you don’t have to imagine (too much) because director and screenwriter Richard Kelley (Southland Tales, Donnie Darko) is going to give you a peek ~ for at least as much as he wants you to see. Like with his previous films, Kelley does leave some things purposely ambiguous, but that makes The Box all the more fascinating and thought-provoking.



Look for any number of religious symbols as Kelley’s adaptation of Richard Matheson’s original story tries hard to incorporate several Old Testament themes into the mix, starting most undoubtedly with the Adam and Eve story, with Arthur representing Adam, Norma playing Eve, and Mr. Seward there in lieu of an actual serpent. Perhaps it is more than just a coincidence that The Box’s enticing button is big, round and apple red?



It’s a rare film these days that can generate actual discussion after it is over, but I guarantee that you’ll want to talk to your friends about this one. More than cheap effects and jump-out-of-the-shadows scares, The Box will stay with you long after you’ve left the theater. It’s just that good. 

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