It's kind of difficult to understand how John Travolta picks projects. George Clooney and Brad Pitt have collaborated with terrific newer filmmakers, as Pitt has worked with David Fincher and both have done films with Steven Soderberg. Travolta, stung by the immense failure of "Battlefield Earth", has not had a memorable success since. "Domestic Disturbance" is one of those films that did respectably and will likely make its money back on video, but is not particularly successful entertainment, nor will it probably be remembered six months from now.
The film is a sprint through familiar grounds. Given the talent both in-front and behind the camera, I don't quite understand what anyone saw in the material. Travolta plays Frank Morrison, a boat-builder who is a nice, calm guy who doesn't have a very profitable business - but he's satisfied with his situation. He's even not that displeased with the fact that his ex-wife Susan (Teri Polo of "Meet the Parents") is getting married. On the other hand, his son Danny, a troublemaker, is less pleased.
Susan's new husband Rick Barnes (Vince Vaughn) seems as if he's a fine, upstanding member of the community, new to wealth after some stocks went big. Of course, while he seems like a nice guy on the outside, he's quite different then he seems. After the wedding, Rick's old business associate Ray (Steve Buscemi, the best at playing this kind of character) appears and Rick suddenly gets a whole lot darker. Things start to turn grim in a sequence where Danny is playing catch with Ray. Later, Danny becomes a witness to Rick eliminating Ray - thus begins the kid-in-danger plot.
At merely 89 minutes, there's little time to develop characters and what characters the audience is presented with are not particularly intelligent. Travolta's performance is just okay, Polo's character is clueless to the point of irritation and doesn't act realistically, Buscemi does the best he can with a stereotypical sleazy character and Matt O'Leary isn't given much to do as Danny. Danny eventually tells about what he's witness, but given the fact that the kid is a troublemaker and wasn't happy about the situation, Frank is the only one who believes him. The two factors that make this film frustrating is the fact that the adults do not seem particularly bright and the lack of logic starts to build higher as the movie progresses. It's a surprise that this film is directed by Harold Becker, who has previously had success generating thrillers that contain a mild amount of susepense. "Domestic Disturbance", on the other hand, simply rambles on predictably and with little intensity. The ending, a poorly concieved piece-of-work, is a dismal wrap.
While "Domestic Disturbance" isn't a complete failure, it's one of those films that made me depressed after watching it. There's nothing new or creative involved, performances that aren't energetic and little or no suspense.
VIDEO: Paramount presents "Domestic Disturbance" in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. I noticed few faults with the effort from Paramount, but as for the film itself, it seemed rather dark looking throughout. Nevertheless, the picture still appeared crisp and fairly well-defined, with the exception of a few minor instances of softness.
The picture quality presented few flaws throughout. Some little specks on the print used were occasionally seen, but these really didn't become that much of an issue, nor did the slight grain that was seen on a couple of occasions. Only the slightest edge enhancement was seen once or twice, but no pixelation was spotted. The film offers a very muted color palette that was reproduced without flaw, although it was never very visually interesting, either.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack seemed pretty uninspired. While the material wouldn't really call for agressive surround use, there were spots were the rear speakers could have been put to more use. Aside from one instance where a police car zips by, there weren't really any instances of surround use that I thought were noteworthy. Mike Mancina's moderately effective score mainly stayed up front, while dialogue was clear and natural sounding.
MENUS: Paramount occasionally provides very well-designed animated menus for their titles (see "Zoolander"), and this is one of those cases. The main menu is an effective opening, with a cool animated clip leading in.
Commentary: This is a rather average commentary by director Harold Becker, who provides a fair amount of information about the production when he does speak, discussing his thoughts about the locations and working with the actors. The director doesn't seem particularly enthusiastic and there are stretches of silence scattered throughout.
Deleted Scenes: 6 deleted scenes with optional commentary and audio introduction from director Becker are included. While these sequences wouldn't have improved the movie greatly, their addition would have filled out the characters and story. He discusses their deletion for pace to add suspense, but the final film's storytelling feels rushed, draining suspense.
Also: Storyboards for two sequences and the film's trailer (in Dolby Digital 5.1, which I believe is a first for a trailer on a Paramount title).
Final Thoughts: "Domestic Disturbance" is strictly TV movie-of-the-week material, only with a bigger cast. I was dissapointed in most aspects of the film. Paramount's DVD, on the other hand, is very nice. The film offers good video and decent audio quality, along with a fair amount of supplements. Those who are fans of this movie will be pleased with the DVD, but I wouldn't recommend it as either a purchase or rental for those who have not.
The Film * 1/2