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Movie Review of the Box Starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden Directed by Richard Kelly

The Box: An Inadequate Package to Unwrap

I so wanted The Box to be a worthy successor to Donnie Darko, director Richard Kelly's first film and much-appreciated cult fave. Unfortunately, I didn't exactly get my wish.

The Box is a highly stylized, good-looking thriller, from the retro 1976 Virginia setting to the Barbie and Ken looks of leads Cameron Diaz and James Marsden. They play husband and wife Arthur and Norma Lewis, who run into a bit of a financial jam when a strange opportunity conveniently presents itself. A creepy, disfigured man (Frank Langella) offers them a million dollars if they push a button inside a box — but a stranger will die if they do.

Kelly has all the right elements and the creativity to give us a hip, entertaining thriller, but there are a number of blatant missteps that make the movie unsatisfying. To see more about what I mean, just


Kelly puts his stamp on everything, namely the constant eerie atmosphere and the random sinister characters (apparently an old person standing still in the road is his trademark). Though many questioned the casting of Cameron Diaz and her requisite Virginia accent, there was a similar doubt when Drew Barrymore and Patrick Swayze were cast in Darko, and it ended up working. With Diaz, it's not that I would say that she nailed the part, but that the accent and greater aspects of the plot are very campy. And I like campy, but I don't know if that's what the film is going for.

If you're not taking it seriously, the movie is a pretty good time, with some frightening scenes and jumps. There are also many parts that are supposed to be creepy, but they're so labored that they come out as funny. Like, laugh out loud in the theater funny. I wouldn't call that a failure, I'd just invoke the term I used before: campy.

The major problem the movie runs into is when it begins exploring these sci-fi and supernatural angles, which end up being red herrings. For instance, much is made of Arthur's job at NASA and Mars, which made me think we were in for a weird, wild sci-fi ride. I was ready to embrace something really out there (I'm a big David Lynch fan, after all), but you don't really get it. There are so many elements that are introduced but never followed to a conclusion, so you're left shrugging your shoulders when the movie ends. It's even more perplexing because the mystery of The Box itself is explained, but you're left with all these details that went nowhere, in retrospect. It's one thing to leave things open-ended, but you have to give the audience something to work with.

Honestly, if you're a Kelly fan, you'll probably find it enjoyable. But if you want complete resolution, I'd wait for the director's cut.

Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.

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PinkNC PinkNC 6 years
This movie looked bad to me before I read this review. I wouldn't pay 5 bucks for it as a boot leg.
Entertainment Entertainment 6 years
Lonely, that's my hope too. It had so much potential.
LonelyShifter LonelyShifter 6 years
I might wait until a director's cut comes out of this. Seeing "Donnie Darko" the first time was a bit confusing, but like any interesting philosophical ideas, the more thought put into it, the better it is. And the director's cut of "Darko" helped explain the supernatural elements much better. I'm hoping this is the case with this movie and there was too much information to put into a theatrical release.
divinedebris divinedebris 6 years
I'm a fan of James Marsden and I could watch this movie, maybe when it comes out on dvd or something but I don't see myself paying to see it in the theaters. I read the short story years ago and I feel like I'll be comparing the two and that's not fair to either. I'm sad they cast Diaz in this movie, because she's not a great dramatic actress at all.
katie225 katie225 6 years
sorry, buzz, but i disagree about the drew barrymore casting in donnie darko. she was the weakest actor in that entire movie! i love donnie darko, it's one of my favorite movies. but i like it best when i skip over her scenes. :)
Gdeeaz Gdeeaz 6 years
I have always been a fan of Cameron but I have no interest in seeing this movie.
suziryder suziryder 6 years
I thought this movie looked idiotic from the trailers, and I can't stand Cameron Diaz, so I have no interest in seeing it.
care0531 care0531 6 years
I have Zero intrest in seeing this movie and Buzz you are right they so look like Barbie & Ken from the 70's! LOL.
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