Release Date: November 02, 2001
Audience: Older teenagers & adults
Runtime: 85 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Director: Harold Becker
Producer: Jonathan D. Krane & Donald De Line
Writer: Lewis Colick
Address Comments To:Sherry Lansing, Chairman
Motion Picture Group
A Paramount Communications Company
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038-3197
Phone: (323) 956-5000
Set in Southport, Maryland, the movie tells the story of Frank Morrison, played ably by John Travolta, who is a master builder of small sailing boats. Right from the beginning, it is clear that Frank is a good guy. He’s launching a beautiful boat that he built by hand as his secretary reminds him that he charged too little for it. He counters that he made a deal and stuck by it. He tells her that he believes in noble failure.
Frank is called to the police station because of his son, Danny, a 12-year-old who’s having trouble coping with his parents’ separation. The sergeant points out that: when the parents separated, Danny was arrested for breaking windows; when they divorced, he was arrested for truancy; now that his mother Susan is getting married to Rick, Danny is engaged in more petty crimes; and, he lies to everyone except his father. Frank loves his son deeply and tries to guide him through the problems of life. Frank even takes the new stepdad sailing with Danny so they can bond and makes a deal with Danny that they will both go to the wedding although neither wants to go. Thus, although he is still heartbroken by the divorce, Frank is a man with values and honor.
Rick, on the other hand, is very rich and very slick. His smooth demeanor drops only for a moment when an uninvited guest, Ray Coleman, shows up at the wedding. Frank picks up on Rick’s anxiety. Clearly, Ray has something on Rick. Rick puts Ray up in a motel and tries to keep him out of sight.
Sometime later, when Susan tells Rick she’s going to have a baby, Danny tries to run away by hiding in the back of Rick’s SUV. Rick picks up Ray, kills him and throws him into the brick kiln to incinerate the body. Danny escapes and tells his father about the murder. They go to the police, but the sergeant doesn’t believe Danny, because he lies and Rick is about to receive a community award from the mayor.
Frank tries to take custody of Danny, but Rick wants him under his thumb and threatens Danny that he will kill Frank if Danny talks about the murder. Because he is trying to protect him, Danny breaks his father’s heart when he says he doesn’t want to live with him.
Eventually, Frank finds out about Rick’s past, the suspense mounts. Rick burns Frank’s business to the ground, and a climactic battle ensues.
It’s refreshing to see a good father in a movie. Even when pushed to the extreme, Frank continues to try to take a high road. He does falter a couple times, kidnapping his son to protect him and throwing a few punches for the same reason. Frank is willing to lay down his life for his family. Furthermore, so is Danny. Frank even makes some positive references to God, and evil is rebuked as well as lying, cheating, drinking, and kidnapping.
Regrettably, the mother Susan is the weak character in the movie, and Rick, as well as his former criminal buddy, Ray, both take God’s name in vain regularly. It’s hard to believe that the citizens of the town wouldn’t see Rick for the sleazy guy he really is.
The problem with DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE is too much of it is paint by numbers. The scenes are predictable. There are some successful suspenseful moments, but it is little more that a TV movie with foul language and extreme violence. Furthermore, the movie builds in the audience a strong desire for revenge, with the audience laughing and cheering at the movie when Rick gets his comeuppance, a very gruesome comeuppance at that. Regrettably, Danny has to participate in the violence. One woman in the screening mentioned that putting a twelve-year-old child through this is child abuse.
Thus, the good in the movie, of which there is a considerable amount, is mitigated by using predictable suspense elements that bring out the worst in the characters and even in the audience. In spite of its PG-13 rating, this movie is not for younger teenagers. They don’t need to be inspired to pick up a baseball bat and hit their stepdads. Too bad, because without the excess, DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE has many virtues.
The problem with DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE is that it is predictable. There are some suspenseful moments, but it is a TV movie with foul language and extreme violence. Furthermore, the movie builds a strong desire for revenge, with the audience laughing and cheering when Rick gets his comeuppance, a very gruesome comeuppance at that. Regrettably, Danny has to participate in the violence. One woman in the screening mentioned that putting a twelve-year-old child through this is child abuse. Thus, the good in the movie, of which there is a considerable amount, is mitigated by using predictable suspense elements that bring out the worst in the characters and even in the audience. In spite of its PG-13 rating, this movie is not for younger teenagers, who don’t need to be inspired to pick up a bat and hit their stepdads.