- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

John Travolta's losing streak is unlikely to be disturbed by "Domestic Disturbance." On the contrary, it gives the struggling star back-to-back stinkers in 2001 ("Swordfish" and "Disturbance") to match the 2000 set of "Battlefield Earth" and "Lucky Numbers."

Having played a sadistic despot earlier this year in "Swordfish," Mr. Travolta reverts to steadfast hero in "Disturbance," which casts him as a divorced dad forced to protect his adolescent son (Matt O'Leary) and ex-wife (Teri Pollo) from the treacherous wretch (Vince Vaughn) who has insinuated himself as stepfather and second hubby. The setting is an apocryphal maritime community on the Eastern Shore of Maryland called Southport. Its often dark, gloomy and rainstormy "reality" is simulated by Wilmington, N.C.
Mr. Travolta's character, Frank Morrison, designs and builds pleasure boats. Trying to make the best of things, he even attends the wedding of former spouse Susan to rich newcomer Rick Barnes, whose money has purchased instant credibility in Southport. Frank also urges his son, Danny, who is inclined to fitfully delinquent and runaway behavior, to give Rick the benefit of the doubt.
In point of fact, the filmmakers portray Danny as a delinquent only to make sure the local police later have an excuse for not believing his account of Rick as a fraud and murderer.
Danny stows away in the back of a van on a fateful stormy night. Rick picks up a mystery man named Ray Coleman (Steve Buscemi), who has come to Southport with blackmail in mind. The pest is killed and then incinerated in a brickworks oven owned by ruthless Rick. In the bravest single gesture of the plot, Danny promptly slips away and informs the police. Disbelieved, he must bide his time in fear while the movie stretches its optimum running time from about 65 minutes to 88 minutes.
Screenwriter Lewis Colick and director Harold Becker prove less than adept at sustaining a waiting game with a known killer in the shadows. Their timing is so faulty during the showdowns between Mr. Travolta and Mr. Vaughn that the movie becomes a self-defeating hoot without resorting to unflattering comparisons to superior movies.
Obviously, Mr. Travolta should perish in the fire Mr. Vaughn cruelly ignites at the boatyard. Just as obviously, the final slugfest in a locked garage between the dueling dads suffers from an overwhelming dose of strenuous, walloping silliness.
There's even a supremely maladroit sound effect, meant to simulate sparks and electrocution, that misfires so happily that we appear to be listening to a hilarious new way to go: death by popcorn. A must-hear movie sensation if ever there were one.
Maybe it's time for John Travolta to settle down with a relatively wholesome sitcom. Being the headliner in the worst major-studio thrillers of the year must take a toll.
Something in me begins to doubt that this is the century of John Travolta.

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