Sunday, August 14, 2011

Quacking BetaMax: The Box

Based on the short story "Button Button" by Richard Matheson and follows an episode of "The Twilight Zone" (1986). According to wikipedia, the original idea is taken from passage 1.6.2 of 'Genius of Christianity' (1802) by François-René de Chateaubriand, in which the authors asks the reader what he would do if he could get rich by killing a mandarin in China solely by force of will. The film version from 2009 is directed by Richard Kelly who is best known for "Donnie Darko" (2001) and provides some minor updates from the short story and TV version.

The story follows Arthur (James Marsden) and Norma Lewis (Cameron Diaz) who each have recent financial issues in Richmond, VA. One day, they receive a mysterious locked box with a button on it and a note that says a Mr. Steward (Frank Langella) will visit. He explains to Norma that, if they press the button, two things will happen: (1) they will receive $1,000,000; and (2) someone "whom you don't know" will die. With just 24 hours to make a decision, Norma and Arthur find themselves in the cross-hairs of a moral dilemma.

The forced southern accents from Cameron Diaz and James Marsden were absolutely terrible as they felt like finger nails on a chalkboard. Additionally, there was no chemistry between the two of them, or with their son. The special effects that were used to disfigure Cameron Diaz and Frank Langella was interesting, but wasn't believable. There is a reason that this was a short story and an episode of the Twilight Zone, because the script being stretched to nearly 2 hours is just too long. Instead there are forced twists and turns that don't really advance the story, but simply show the use of special effects.

The moral dilemma of the story is interesting and asks the question "why a box?". This was explained well by Frank Langella's character that "you live in a box, your car is a box on wheels, you drive to work in it you drive home in it, you sit at home staring at a box, it erodes the soul while the box that is your body dies, where upon you are placed in the ultimate box where you will slowly decompose. This is the temporary state of mankind." The simple answer to the experiment is that you pass the test by simply by not pressing the button. However, the moral dilemma is that if humans are unwilling to sacrifice individual desires for the greater good than we have no chance for survival.

As a movie that I found on HBO, this was okay. However I would have never paid to see this in the theater and can only give it 2 Quacks. It isn't a bad film, but just not a good film either.

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