|Written by Tara O'Shea|
|Tuesday, 16 April 2002|
Frank Morrison (Travolta) and his ex-wife Susan (Teri Polo) are struggling with their young son Danny (O'Leary), who frequently cuts class, lies, and steals. The police in their picture-perfect Maryland town are tired of dealing with the kid, and his mother is at her wits’ end. Danny simply refuses to get along with his mother's fiancé, Rick Barnes (Vaughn), who is being embraced as entrepreneur of the year by the picturesque East Coast town. However, things go from bad to worse when, after the wedding, Ray's mask begins to slip and only Danny sees that he's not the great guy everyone thinks he is. When he finds out his mother is pregnant, Danny hides in the back of Ray's car, hoping to hitch a ride out to his dad's. However, the kid goes from the frying pan into the fire as he witnesses Rick murder an old associate from prison (Steve Buscemi). However, thanks to Danny’s background, no one believes him--except, of course, Rick.
While there are genuine moments of dread, particularly as Rick threatens Danny to try to keep the boy from destroying his new life, the film simply never engages the viewer. The custody battle in the middle almost derails the thriller plotline, and Polo's Susan seems to have been written as particularly dense, never clueing into her husband's dark side until it's too late. Buscemi does have some fun ad-libs, but he’s killed off too early in the film to save it. Travolta's love interest serves no purpose and is practically discarded along the way, as the film moves toward its inevitable and predictable showdown between Frank and Rick.
Extras include a thoughtful if uninteresting commentary from Becker, who is so enamored of the script by Lewis Colick (from a story by Colick, William S. Comanor and Gary Drucker) and the actors' performances that one has to wonder if he realizes the movie he made is instantly forgettable. Other extras include the ubiquitous trailer, six deleted scenes which add little to the film and were wisely left on the cutting room floor, and storyboards.
Visually, the disc is strong. Becker takes great pains to make the town appear to be every Norman Rockwell fantasy, and the print has minimal flaws. Colors and black levels are fine. Although some of the indoor scenes appear too dark, this may be a result of the filmmaker's vision and not the transfer itself. The audio mix fares slightly better, with the thunderstorm during Ray's murder being a highlight. Unfortunately, some dialogue is muffled in the sound mix. The score is somewhat repetitive, but not to the point of being truly grating, and music and effects make good use of the surround mix.
The menus are simple and effective, using still images and music from the film. However, one wishes all the deleted scenes with commentary could have been played at once, rather than needing to select each scene and then re-select the commentary feature. It makes for a frustrating experience, particularly as some of the scenes are very short.
Overall, the film is a disappointment. While slick visually, and full of good performances, the script is utterly predictable, and the direction uninspired. A decent rental, but unless you are a true devotee of the Travolta oeuvre, this one is pretty much a miss.