What’s most disturbing about Domestic Disturbance is that it has all the right ingredients to be a terrific thriller, but misses the boat so completely it ends up in ho-hum dry dock. On paper the plot probably looked pretty good. Newcomer 12-year-old Matthew O’Leary plays Danny, a troubled adolescent who is so distraught over his mother’s re-marriage he continually misbehaves. He’s angry with everyone except his father, John Travolta (Swordfish), the rugged master boatbuilding craftsman, whom he adores. The stepfather, Rick Barnes, (Vince Vaughn, Made) has charmed everyone in town (Wilmington, North Carolina, by the way) with his silver tongue and fat billfold. Hardly anyone seems to notice Barnes’ shifty eyes or question his potholed resume’. Least of all, Danny’s supposedly devoted mother, Susan (Teri Polo, Meet the Parents). She blithely has a fancy summer wedding without even wondering where hubby’s Mom and Pop are on the big day. Danny accidentally witnesses his stepfather killing a man, but when he tells the police his tale, everyone thinks he’s made up the gruesome story to punish his mother for getting pregnant with another child. With no evidence to back up his story, Danny is dismissed as a liar. Even Travolta has trouble believing him–until he starts noticing details about Barnes that don’t add up and sees how increasingly terrified Danny is each time he sees him. Finally, Travolta realizes what he should have remembered a long time ago: Danny never lies to him. His re-awakened trust in his son sets him off on a crusade to investigate Barnes and uncover the identity of the man he killed, a sleazy, two-bit racketeer played by king-of-the-crooked-teeth, Steve Buscemi (28 Days). The closer Travolta gets to the truth about Barnes, the more desperate Barnes grows and the more lethal he becomes to Danny and his mother. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Alas, Disturbance never quite meets its potential. The story stretches credibility so far that it snaps it, and the actors just seem to be sleepwalking. It’s as if director Becker (Mercury Rising) forgot about them while he concentrated on perfecting the action scenes. There is a terrific fire in which Travolta’s boatyard burns to a rubble, but one gorgeous explosion does not make up for all the yawn time. Vaughan, who got rave reviews for his comedy roles in Made and Swingers is too wimpy a villain to be interesting. Travolta is good enough as the concerned father, but he doesn’t have any scenes in which he emotes above a common denominator. The best actor of the lot is young Matthew O’Leary who shows more depth and variety of character than all the adults put together. Though no one listens to him in Domestic Disturbance, movie audiences are going to be hearing a lot about this kid in the future. Unless you’re a loyal Travolta fan (stand in line with me), Catch Disturbance when it comes to video.
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