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Laramie Movie Scope:
Domestic Disturbance

By the numbers kid in distress action-drama

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 12, 2001 -- If you go to the movies much, or if you watch movie advertisements on TV, you probably already know the entire plot of "Domestic Disturbance." The trailers don't leave anything to the imagination. I was hoping for some kind of plot twist or a little surprise somewhere. Nothing. It is entirely predictable. The trailer tells the whole story and the movie telegraphs its punches.

For those of you who live in a cave with a computer, the story has the hero, Frank Morrison (John Travolta) watching apprehensively as his ex-wife, Susan (Teri Polo of "Meet the Parents"), marries millionaire Rick Barnes (Vince Vaughn of "The Cell"), despite the objections of Frank and Susan's son, Danny Morrison (Matthew O'Leary). The sinister music and sour looks by Rick indicate that he is a bad man.

When Danny sees Rick commit a heinous crime, he reports Rick to the police, almost nobody believes him because Danny is a spoiled, lying brat. Frank has his doubts, but begins to believe his son really saw something. Frank begins his own investigation. Despite not having a background in criminal investigation, Frank the boat builder soon cracks the case which had baffled the knuckleheaded cops. Then comes the showdown. What will Rick do when he is cornered? It is a typical kind of kid-in-danger action drama.

There is an attempt to add some complexity to the characters, particularly Rick and Frank. Rick is a guy who just wants to be left alone. He doesn't want anyone prying into his past, and he is willing to put it all behind him. He also wants to be a good father, but there's a question whether he really has it in him. He is also a successful businessman and respected community leader. It seems clear he has achieved at least some of his success on his own. Frank, who is not nearly as successful, keeps digging and badgering Rick because he wants to find out the truth. Frank also has problems of his own, including a drinking problem. He's a hero, but not a perfect one.

There are some logical problems with the story. At one point, Danny watches some crucial evidence burn up when he could have put out the fire with the push of a button. At another point, he uncovers crucial evidence about Rick simply by doing a basic search on the Internet using his own computer. One would think the police could have done as well. Maybe the police don't have computers. All of this can be attributed to a kind of lazy screenplay by Lewis Colick. The acting by Travolta, Vaughn and Steve Buscemi ("28 Days") is solid. It is nice to see Travolta as a hero instead of being the bad guy, as he had been in his recent films, "Battlefield Earth," and "Swordfish." Buscemi, unfortunately, is not on screen much in this film.

Production values are also good with quality cinematography by Michael Seresin and a nice use of scenic coastal locations at Wilmington, North Carolina (which doubles for the movie's purported setting, Southport, Maryland) and some beautiful wooden sailing vessels. Director Harold Becker of "Mercury Rising" runs the film through its paces competently. The film's main problems are its extreme predictability, tired use of movie clichés (like Travolta's stubborn, impractical businessman character and the incompetent cops), and a plot that is not quite believable. The film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2001 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)