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1 item from 1998

Film review: 'Disturbing Behavior'

24 July 1998 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

A poorly executed redux of "The Stepford Wives" with high schoolers programmed to be goody-goody kids, MGM's "Disturbing Behavior" is flat and unscary, resorting to conventional violence when its preposterous scenario finally shows some life about an hour into its thankfully short, 83-minute running time.

Starring Matt Damon look-alike James Marsden (best-known for CBS miniseries "Bella Mafia") as a mostly passive, remarkably dense newcomer and Katie Holmes of "Dawson's Creek", the exploitative "Disturbing" will not behave well at the boxoffice even in this era of hit teen screamfests. The R-rated mystery thriller boasts little sex and only a few seconds of nudity, while its occasional bursts of bloody violence are routine.

The plot makes no sense. A loner stoner, Gavin (Nick Stahl), witnesses a double homicide in the opening scene, with a local cop (Steve Railsback) helping the murderer get away even after the officer's partner has been blown away. Welcome to Cradle Bay, unreported-homicide capital of America.

Fresh off the ferry is Steve Marsden) and his family, who've moved from Chicago in the aftermath of his older brother's suicide. Brooding but too hunky not to be snatched up by one of the local coed cliques, Steve is first befriended by Gavin and warned to stay away from the Blue Ribbons, a school-sponsored, parent-sanctioned group of serious, upstanding students.

Do the parents really know how school psycho, er, psychiatrist Dr. Caldicott (Bruce Greenwood of "The Sweet Hereafter") achieves miraculous transformations, turning potheads and punks into straight-laced jerks? Apparently not, but near the climax the audience is treated to a ludicrous "Clockwork Orange"-like sequence showing the method of mind control. Oh sure.

Through Gavin, Steve gets on the good side of rebel princess Rachel Holmes), who has somehow avoided Caldicott's campaign to better society. In fact, lots of other kids conveniently run and hide when the Ribbons go ballistic -- a side effect of the treatment usually triggered by sexual arousal.

Sneaking smokes in the school basement, the heroes stay in touch with scruffy janitor Dorian Newberry (William Sadler), but the true savior of the day is a rat. In a vicious encounter with a "toxic jock," Rachel is spared serious injury or death when the nosy rodent sets off a pest-control contraption that happens to drive the surgically altered Ribbons batty.

There's a goofy lemmings-leaping-to-their-deaths climax, but before that, Steve finally decides to do something, and he and Rachel uncover the truth about Caldicott at a lunatic asylum that rivals anything in "The Snake Pit". Like, no way.

Stahl and Holmes make the biggest impressions, but the script credited to Scott Rosenberg is relentlessly pedestrian and predictable. Veteran TV director David Nutter ("The X-Files", "ER") has no style to speak of and relies far too often on tiresome jolts on the soundtrack to maintain the foreboding mood.



Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures presents

in association with Village Roadshow-Hoyts Film Partnership

A Beacon Communications production

Director: David Nutter

Screenwriter: Scott Rosenberg

Producers: Armyan Bernstein, Jon Shestack

Executive producers: C.O. Erickson,

Phillip B. Goldfine

Director of photography: John S. Bartley

Production designer: Nelson Coates

Editor: Randy Jon Morgan

Costume designer: Trish Keating

Music: Mark Snow

Casting: Lisa Beach



Steve: James Marsden

Rachel: Katie Holmes

Gavin: Nick Stahl

Dr. Caldicott: Bruce Greenwood

Dorian Newberry: William Sadler

Officer Cox: Steve Railsback

Running time -- 83 minutes

MPAA rating: R


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1 item from 1998

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