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[whitespace] 'Domestic Disturbance'
Phoning It In: John Travolta can barely wake from his slumbers in the tiresome new thriller 'Domestic Disturbance.'

Plodding Plotter

'Domestic Disturbance' suffers from too-obvious villain Vince Vaughn

By Richard von Busack

An overworked-looking John Travolta plays Frank Morrison, a Maryland boat builder, in Domestic Disturbance. His ex-wife (Teri Polo) is on the threshold of marrying a breezy, successful businessman (Vince Vaughn). Morrison's young son, Danny (Matt O'Leary), is suspicious of his new parent, but when the boy witnesses his stepfather committing a murder, the police won't believe him.

The first half of the film is told economically, if unimaginatively. Steve Buscemi is gratifying as a sleazy blackmailer whose wardrobe is mostly polyester and leatherette. But Vaughn, from the very beginning, carries himself like a bad-guy wrestler. As an actor, Vaughn knows no other path. He doesn't have the qualities that would make us feel sorry for a villain under suspicion, trying to leave his sordid past behind. By the second half, what should have been a good-enough thriller comes completely unwound, thanks to the unlikely dunderheadedness of the police, the mother and, especially, the villain. He may be a menacing meathead, that Vaughn, but he's not the diabolical-plotting type.

The direction by Harold Becker matches Travolta's air of tiredness; the film is unrevived by any cinematic tricks or by the many chances for some cleverness with the local characters. Usually, a nautical setting gives the director a chance to add some salty performances or dialogue. However, Travolta's supposed to be a stubborn old-fashioned craftsman, such as one would see in a TV commercial for a bank. So the film is too solemn for fun. "Did I ever tell you my theory of noble failure?" Morrison asks his girlfriend, who is fretting over his money situation. Certainly no one's going to call Domestic Disturbance a noble failure. (RvB)

DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE (PG-13; 100 min.), directed by Harold Becker, written by Lewis Colick, photographed by Michael Seresin and starring John Travolta, Vince Vaughn and Matt O'Leary, plays at selected theaters.

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From the November 8-14, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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