Rated PG-13 for intense thematic material, violence, sexuality, language and some drug references. Running time: 105 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.
In “Lakeview Terrace,” Director Neil LaBute takes his first real stab at horror, if you will. And with this story of a psycho-cop who tries to run off his new next-door neighbors, you wish he’d have just given into the B-movie instincts of the material, and not tried to make “Lakeview Terrace” about Something Important.
As an overzealous Los Angeles police officer, Samuel L. Jackson certainly seems ready to head down such a cliched, schlocky road. But LaBute, working from a script by David Loughery and Howard Korder, is trying to probe the dangers that lurk within a supposedly safe suburbia while making a statement about race relations.
Jackson’s Abel Turner is a strict, single father of two who patrols his hillside cul de sac as thoroughly as he works his beat. When racially mixed newlyweds move in next door — Chris (Patrick Wilson), who is white, and Lisa (Kerry Washington), who is black — he turns even more prickly.
Some of the initial tension is intriguing: the subtext that exists within Abel and Chris’ awkward neighborly small talk, the vaguely threatening tone in Abel’s voice that grows less veiled in time. Abel catches Chris sneaking cigarettes and tossing out the butts. And, understandably, he’s a little perturbed when Chris and Lisa christen their swimming pool with some late-night skinny dipping in full view of his young son and teenage daughter.
Then there are the freaky break-ins and acts of vandalism that no one can explain. The blinding security lights Abel shines into the couple’s bedroom at night and refuses to shut off, even after repeated complaints. And Abel’s incessant remarks about their interracial marriage.
“You can listen to that noise all night long,” Abel says to Chris as he blares rap from his car stereo, “but when you wake up in the morning, you’ll still be white.”
When Abel says to Chris during his nightly patrols, “Not everybody up here is somebody you’d want to live next door to,” it’s just one of many occasions to beat us over the head with the obvious. And that comes long before a single gunshot.
Abel’s justification for his increasingly violent actions, by the way, is totally oversimplified; making him simply evil or crazy would have been preferable. Even more clunky is the fact that a wildfire, fanned by Southern California’s notorious Santa Ana winds, is growing and spreading toward Lakeview Terrace throughout the film. By the end, smoke chokes the hills and the sky surrounds the generic tract houses in a ball of orangey-red.
Is this hell? Or a war zone? Maybe it’s both, man. That’s deep.
Rated PG for some thematic elements, scary images, action and mild language. 86 min. Two stars out of four.
Dr. Frankenstein himself could not revive this animated comedy about a hunchbacked lab assistant playing at mad scientist.
Frankenstein specialized in reanimating once-living matter, but he would be unable to find any spark of life to resuscitate here. A potentially original premise and an eager voice cast led by John Cusack and Molly Shannon are left to decay amid a clunky story vaguely reminiscent of “Monsters, Inc.” and a clutter of cartoon images often resembling visuals rejected from “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride.”
Director Tony Leondis and screenwriter Chris McKenna take a jumble of Hollywood horror cliches and shove them through a meat-grinder to concoct an awkward, unfunny comic twist on the evil-genius genre.
Cusack plays the title character, aiming to prove he’s more than a hunchbacked gofer by creating an evil behemoth woman (Shannon), who turns out to be a pussycat.
The voice cast includes Steve Buscemi, Sean Hayes, Eddie Izzard, Jay Leno and Jennifer Coolidge.