As one of Alfred Hitchcock's best films and most delicious concepts, Rear Window has been primed for a modern reworking, beyond what it got when Christopher Reeve played the lead in a straightforward 1998 remake. Disturbia at first promises to be that satisfying update of the story, as the housebound protagonist swaps his wheelchair for an ankle bracelet, which will summon police cars if he strays beyond a certain radius. Everything about this setup works, from the whimsical notion that a home is anything but a prison for a teenager with Sony PlayStation to an opening that sets the events in motion with powerful immediacy. Shia LaBeouf's gifts of naturalism are on full display, reinforcing why he's considered one of the most promising leading men of his generation, and was cast in a succession of Hollywood's most anticipated summer blockbusters. But problems surface with the arrival of David Morse's nefarious neighbor, whose late-night activities look anything but wholesome through LaBeouf's binoculars. It's not that Morse doesn't have Raymond Burr's eerie presence -- in fact, Morse is capable of a chilling deadness that makes him quite an effective villain. The problem is that his behavior sabotages the credibility the rest of the film has worked to establish. Not only is he creepy in a way that would tip off anybody, but his crimes are executed with a total lack of shrewdness -- full of wild, murderous gesticulations in front of open windows. Perhaps that's the only way LaBeouf's Kale Brecht can witness them, but this was less problematic in Hitchcock's day, when audiences didn't have the sophisticated forensic understanding of the criminal mind that today's viewers have absorbed almost by osmosis. Disturbia has a basic tautness and some decent set pieces, but not surprisingly, it falls well short of the Rear Window standard.
by Derek Armstrong review