So, does Disturbia, a teen-beat remake of Rear Window, imply that Hollywood is finally moving on from its obsession with underage remakes of Shakespeare plays? If so, it's just as well: At least it'll mean some less-played-out stories. Granted, it's harder to avoid comparing a remake with the original when both originated in the same medium. Still, while Disturbia doesn't live up to Rear Window—or credit it, though the parallels are unmissable—and it's often annoyingly fluffy where Rear Window is grim, it eventually evolves into a credible thriller, one pointedly rather than coincidentally embedded in the trivia of its time.
Shia LaBeouf stars as a good kid turned bitter and sullen after his father's death. After slugging a snotty Spanish teacher, LaBeouf is sentenced to three months' house arrest, with an ankle monitor alerting the teacher's vengeful cop cousin whenever LaBeouf steps out of line. When his mom (The Matrix's Carrie-Anne Moss) cuts off his iTunes account and his XBox Live connection, LaBeouf gets so stir-crazy that he has to spy on his neighbors—including hot newcomer Sarah Roemer—to stay entertained. But eventually, he starts to suspect that creepy neighbor David Morse is a serial killer, and he, buddy Aaron Yoo, and Roemer launch their own Spy Kids investigation.
The setup takes far too long, at least for viewers who aren't the exact right age to harmonize with LaBeouf's well-acted yet not terribly compelling "Life's sooo unfair" teen angst. But once the plot finally kicks into gear, director D.J. Caruso (Taking Lives) effectively cranks up the tension, via tricks yanked from the Hitchcock and Blair Witch Project playbooks. The script's cultural specificity is likely to date it—amid all the technology being name-checked or brought into play, all that's missing is LaBeouf whining to his LiveJournal friends about how nobody understands him, OMG—but for now, it seems smartly aware of a time in which kids relate to the world as much through their webcams, laptops, and cell phones as through their own eyes. Perhaps most telling is Roemer's romantic interest in LaBeouf, which comes after she learns he's been spying on her; in the era of MySpace and YouTube video blogs, the film implies, everyone is so open that only an obsessive stalker has enough interest and access to uncover actual intimate truths, whether they're about his crush object or a psycho killer.