THE MUSIC BOX
Starring: Jessica Lange, Armin
Forest, Lukas Haas, & Donald
Genre: Courtroom Drama
Distributor: Tri-Star Pictures
Producer: Irwin Winkler
Writer: Joe Eszterhas
Address Comments To:
When gentle, grandfatherly Mr. Laszlo goes on trial for having falsified papers over 40 years ago on his application for U.S. citizenship, he is represented in court by his duly loyal daughter Ann, who never once doubts his innocence. Prosecuting attorney Jack Burke, on the other hand, never once doubts Laszlo's guilt. He's been looking for the "cold-blooded killer" and "scum of the earth," as he calls him, for decades. Burke has a strong case against Laszlo, and it doesn't help matters that the presiding judge is Jewish.
As the case against her father progresses, and the prospects for his acquittal worsen with each new piece of corroborating testimony from victims that Burke presents, Ann gets taken on a journey, both figuratively and literally, along the road that leads to truth. Ending up in Laszlo's native Hungary, she collects two important pieces of information. One of them, proof of an accuser's lack of credibility, decides the fate of the court case. The other, a claim ticket to a music box Laszlo pawned many years ago in Chicago, leads to the master evidence -- yellowed, incriminating snapshots hidden inside the box -- that will decide the fate of her relationship with her father.
The script raises good questions about how prejudice can cloud one's judgment, both from behind the bench and in front of one's family. However, it plays like it would have been better suited for TV, a whodunit with telegraphed clues and commercial cues. It also takes an irreverent stab at Christianity when Lange's character (ill-cast and unconvincing as Ann) ridicules her opponent early on for taking desperate measures by chiding him: "What're you gonna do next, find Jesus and get yourself born again?"
The film wants you to still be asking, "Is he guilty or not guilty?" when the jury is about to render its decision in the final ten minutes. However, you'll have probably made up your mind -- correctly, too -- in the first ten minutes. Therefore, the verdict is in... Avoid THE MUSIC BOX.