Friday, November 6, 2009

The Box, or Surprise! No time travel!

Dear Richard Kelly,

I cannot believe it. You made a movie without bringing up time travel. But after seeing The Box, and wishing Cameron Diaz had been locked in one, I really wish I could go back in time two hours and kill my past self before he had to watch it. Actually, I wouldn't because I'm a pimp. And pimps don't kill themselves.

Damn, Southland Tales was good! But, Richard... The Box was most certainly not. I mean, it was funny for the first forty-five minutes or so. Every time Cameron Diaz mysteriously lost her accent, I smiled. Every time a random character stared sadistically at James Marsden for no real reason, I chuckled. But when the film brought the big guns and let James Marsden's mind wander towards philosophy, there were tears streaming down my face due to my exorbitant laughter. This comic gem really knows how to get the laughs. Oh wait, all of that was unintentional. The audience was supposed to take this film seriously. I think that may be the best joke of all.

Here is some actual dialogue from the movie: (a rough, yet accurate, quotation)

Cameron Diaz: So, someone we don't know will die?
James Marsden (gazes dreamily at the ceiling): What does it really mean? To know someone?
He stares intensely at Cameron, who obviously cannot pull off her 35 year old character.
James Marsden: Do you know me?
Cameron Diaz: (without hesitation): Better than you know yourself.
James Marsden: Do you know...Walter? (their son).
Cameron Diaz: (slowly and softly, feeling a tingling in her--I mean, the--box): Better than I know you.

But seriously, all screen directions aside, that is the actual dialogue. This is straight out of a Nicholas Sparks novel! After the couple pressed the button, they should have time-traveled forty years into the future where an elderly James Marsden reads the story of "The Box" to an elderly Cameron Diaz; in hopes that she would remember their time together... even if just for a moment...

Wipes tear from his eye. Wait, what are we talking about? Oh yeah, let's summarize The Box, Richard. Make sure I've got everything straight:

So there's this couple who, according to Cameron Diaz's accent, is sometimes Southern and sometimes not. They're in a hard spot financially, because James Marsden won't quit his dead end job at NASA and Cameron Diaz didn't win enough money in her lawsuit against the doctor who X-rayed her toes off. As a result, they only have one convertible, and they might have to--heaven forbid--take their son out of private school.

Then, Harvey Dent comes to their house with a proposition: Press this button and two things will happen. First, someone in the world, whom you don't know, will die. Second, I will give you one million free (take that, government!). Cameron Diaz then makes the obvious choice and presses the button. She gets a million dollars. Win.

But then, Harvey Dent starts following the couple around; seemingly because they are inquiring to others about his identity, but really because he was planning on doing so all along. Some people get nose bleeds, some other bullshit happens, and then James Marsden meets the man who last received the box. Turns out, this man has killed his wife in order to save his daughter. Wait, could this be a clue to what is going to happen at the end of the film?!?!?!?! Yes, that much punctuation was necessary. So, blah, blah, blah, it turns out that Harvey Dent was sent by God (or aliens, take your pick) to test the human race. Needless to say, we're failing miserably. James Marsden shoots Cameron Diaz (thank God) in order to save his son's sight and hearing. James Marsden goes to jail and Harvey Dent continues to be disgusted with humanity.

Now, Richard. Don't be offended, but the reason I refer to large portions of the plot as "bullshit" is that these scenes have no real bearing on the plot at all. You used the library scene because you wanted the film to be creepy, and also because if the film didn't have time travel, it at least needed portals. The kidnapping of the son is a tense moment, but also goes nowhere. Every time there is an opportunity for something interesting to happen, the characters black out and end up back at their house.

Let's not even talk about the movie for a moment. Let's talk about the box. Would you press the button? The obvious choice is "yes." First of all, in a logical world, if a dude showed up and told you that a simple box could kill someone, you'd laugh in his face. If he offered you a million dollars, you'd laugh in his face, press the button, and take his money. And if it turned out that it did actually kill someone, no all-knowing omnipotent being could really blame you for thinking it was a joke.

But let's say that you did believe that the box would kill someone. Two-face didn't tell you that you would actually cause the death. He just said that when you press the button someone would die. The world is a big place. I'm pretty sure that every time I touch anything someone in the world dies. So why shouldn't I get a million dollars for it?

And just so you know, the box in the movie didn't kill anyone either. According to the movie's logic, James Marsden would have shot Cameron Diaz even if the new couple hadn't pressed the button. What would have happened if the new couple hadn't pressed the button? I bet you don't even know, do you? Would Two-face show up and tell James Marsden to calm his ass down? It's still all bullshit, Richard.


  1. LOL.. great review. I went to this movies as a 2nd choice because 2012 was sold out when we got to the theater. This was one of the worst movies I have ever seen. We laughed through 80 percent of it--which kind of made it entertaining. What a waste of time and money.

  2. How dare you! The short story, "Button, Button" was amazing. This movie was a good accompaniment to it. It may not have been Richard's best, but it was pretty good. I think it was a good effort for a short story that I don't think should've been recreated.

  3. Come on people...this movie was almost as good as "The Happening". Wait a it wasn't. "The Happening" was funnier. They both sucked though. I know it is cool to like weird movies that most people don't understand and if that is true then I just don't want to be cool. My only regret was watching it. Thanks to Matt Larner for putting my thoughts into words concerning this movie.

  4. James Marsden did not go to jail. Annoyed police officers took off his handcuffs in the living room and let him go. He left home in Frank Langellas black sedan. No doubt you were formulating incredibly clever witticisms so you missed the end of the movie. It must be an occupational hazard. Anyway to answer your question, the other couple had to press the button just as Marsden had to kill his wife because their freewill was an illusion. The characters always picked the second choice (as advised by the student Charles-you know who) no matter how many choices they were given.
    Your fan Thomas is right. It is cool to like weird movies most people don't understand. That is what cheesy science fiction is all about.

  5. Weird movie yes, but if you're really going to sit and critique movies, you need to at least get the cast was Frank Langellas, not Harvey Dent. Try again.

  6. Anonymous is obviously a troll, but at least he's not a spambot.

    I'm quite impressed with all the random views this entry got. Maybe I'll start up again just to see if people continue to correct the plot items I intentionally misrepresent.

  7. Who was tsanding in the window behind the son at the end of the movie?

  8. After midnight I'm dyslexic and really late on this but I just caught this movie on Showtime and my husband refuses to watch it so I don't have anyone else to answer this question. I think it was Norma's father and he was in on it all along.

    I disagree on the freewill. Frank Langella had THE line in the movie that gave it all away and every review missed it. I can't quote it directly but it was basically, "Until human beings stop being so individualistic and start being altruistic and consider their community WE will consider you for extinction."

    Anyone with a face like Harvey Dent has to be the Devil.

    Sigh. No one is going to read this because I am a day late's too cheesey. I can't even finish that sentence. - Anon Again (Not the one who didn't get the Dent comment)

  9. I read your comment, but ive been actively expunging all things Cameron Diaz from my mind, so I can no longer recall the window scene you're referencing. I do agree that the line you mentioned is essentially the thesis of the film.

  10. Thank-you. Validation. It makes the world go round.