Take a pass on ‘The Box’

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James Marsden and Cameron Diaz are shown in a scene from, "The Box."
Warner Bros. Pictures/MCT

The object that gives this movie its title looks intriguing
indeed, made of handsome hardwood and topped by a large, red button. Press it,
and you will receive $1 million in cash — but someone you don’t know will die.

In The Box, this choice is presented not by
Howie Mandel but by Frank Langella as a horribly disfigured but well-tailored
man named Arlington Steward. One day in 1976 he pays a visit to NASA engineer
Arthur Lewis (James Marsden) and his schoolteacher wife, Norma (Cameron Diaz).
They could use the money: He has hit a salary plateau, and Norma’s school has
stopped offering cut-rate tuition for their son, Walter (Sam Oz Stone).

The movie’s moral crux comes from Richard Matheson’s 1970
story Button, Button, which has been
adapted before, into a 1986 episode of
The Twilight Zone. In hindsight, the writer-director of The
Box
, Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko), may be realizing that the shorter format was the
better one.

Aware that audiences wouldn’t sit through two hours of yes
or no, deal or no deal, Kelly pads his film with an incoherent conspiracy plot
(Steward’s first name is a hint) and several borrowed half-notions. The
townsfolk start acting like invaders from Mars. A space odyssey begins. And it
looks like this might be the day the Earth stands still.

When The Box starts
babbling about religion, you’ll have long stopped caring. But you have a
choice: If you stay at home, you will save $10 — and a movie you don’t know
will die.

The Box

1 star

Cast: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella

Directed by: Richard Kelly

Length: 1:56

Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements, some violence and
disturbing images.

Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.