A scene from 'Domestic Disturbance'
Courtesy Photo
*1/2 stars 92 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, November 2, 2001
Directed by Harold Becker

Starring John Travolta, Vince Vaughn, Teri Polo, Matthew O'Leary, Steve Buscemi


What little genuine tension this movie can muster will likely disappear on the small screen because it just won't jump off the screen. It will probably play like the cheap cable movie it would have been without Travolta attached.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 04.16.2002

Travolta interview from "Battlefield Earth"


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Generic good father Travolta saves his son from a deadly stepdad in insultingly formulaic thriller

By Rob Blackwelder

Another simplistic thriller in the child-in-peril vein, "Domestic Disturbance" follows the heroic perfect father formula of "Ransom," "Don't Say a Word," etc., substituting kidnappers with a murderous stepfather antagonist.

Twelve-year-old Danny Morrison (Matt O'Leary) was hiding in the back of the family Suburban when his rich, pillar-of-the-community new stepdad with the evil eye (Vince Vaughn) picked up a blackmailer (Steve Buscemi) from his secret criminal past, and stabbed the guy in the back with an ice pick then burned his body at a brick factory.

His dad Frank (John Travolta) -- a nobly insolvent boat builder -- believes him. But because Danny has a history of crying wolf, nobody else does. Not his two-dimensional mom (Teri Polo) and certainly not the cops, whose implausibly complete ineptitude is required for this story to last beyond 20 minutes.

So the stepdad threatens the kid, tries to kill Travolta, and blah, blah, blah, until the showdown finale. You know the drill, and that's exactly what makes this movie a loser.

With a few cheap horror flick jolts, but without a single surprise or even a moment of genuine tension, "Domestic Disturbance" feels as if director Harold Becker ("Malice," "City Hall") was asleep at the wheel. Travolta is warm, upstanding, and generically flawed enough to make an actor with low standards think he's stretching a little. Vaughn is subtly threatening, wheeling out that blank but menacing stare from the 1998 "Psycho" remake. Both are adequate in roles that require very little of them.

Sadly, there was potential here for breaking the mold and plying the picture with some spine-tingling smarts -- especially if the police had been scripted with an iota of aptitude. But acting on the assumption that most moviegoers are morons, Hollywood always chooses to err on the side of simplicity, and in this case dumbed the film down to an intelligence-insulting level.


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