The Box is a sci-fi abomination


Starring Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, and Frank Langella. Rated PG. Opens Friday, November 6

“Button, Button”, the 1970 Richard Matheson tale on which The Box is based, is only 10 pages long, but that didn’t stop Hollywood from turning it into a 115-minute sci-fi abomination complete with solid cubes of water that transport people around, hordes of automatons with bleeding noses, and a villain whose face has been partially removed by a lightning bolt.

In this preposterous and poorly paced thriller, set in 1976, seemingly content Virginia couple Norma and Arthur Lewis (a wonky Cameron Diaz and hammy James Marsden) and their young son are awakened by their doorbell early one morning. They discover a package on the doorstep, which they open to reveal a small wooden platform with a red button on top. Then Arlington Steward (Frank Langella), elegant but for the mutilated crater where his left cheek should be, shows up to explain that if they push the button, someone they don’t know somewhere in the world will die—but they will receive a million bucks.

Watch the trailer for The Box.

Even though they own a nice big house and NASA engineer Arthur drives a wicked silver ’Vette, they could really use the cash due to recent money issues. What they end up deciding sets in slothlike motion a convoluted string of ludicrous events that will take writer-director Richard Kelly—of Donnie Darko cult fame—years to live down.

Just try not groaning in disbelief at the interminable library scene, which culminates with Arthur winding up suspended in a block of clear water over his bed at home, staring down at Norma until she rolls off just in time to avoid being hurt when he crashes down on the bed and the entire house gets soaked. Seriously, that’s what happens; I didn’t make it up. And neither, to his eternal credit, did Matheson.

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