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Domestic Disturbance

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2001 1 Jan
Domestic Disturbance

from Film Forum, 11/08/01

John Travolta plays one mad dad in Domestic Disturbance. His wife has divorced him and taken up with a cruel and unusual beau, played by Vince Vaughan, leaving her son in a dangerous place. Father and son team up against the abusive stepdad in an action thriller that's accused of audience abuse.

Mainstream critics held Disturbance up as an example of just how low major studios are sinking these days. Roger Ebert takes issue with the film's lenient rating. He calls it "a child-in-terror movie, in which a child is the eyewitness to a brutal murder and the incineration of the body. Then the kid sees his father hammered to within an inch of his life, his mother beaten until she has a miscarriage, and himself as the unwitting cause of an electrocution." Why does this film get a PG-13 rating, he asks, while cleaner, tamer, artful, and meaningful films like Amelie and WakingLife are rated R? Good question.

Religious press critics, however, gave the movie some credit for portraying an admirable father figure. "It's refreshing to see a good father in a movie," says Ted Baehr (Movieguide), but he determines that "too much of [the movie] is paint-by-numbers. 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."

Lindy Beam (Focus on the Family) gives the film "big props for portraying a dad who is loving, communicative, involved, regretful of his mistakes, strong, bold and justice-seeking. But harsh language and violence make it a domestic disappointment for families. The characters are shallow; the writing is formulaic; the ending is rushed."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) acknowledges the film's formulaic story, and he agrees that characters make outrageously foolish decisions. But he concludes, "Competent direction … and an above-average cast is what keeps the movie afloat.

Douglas Downs (Christian Spotlight on the Movies) says, "There are many irks with Domestic Disturbance for those who like things to fit together." He also faults "an excess of violence," profanity, and predictability.

Holly McClure (The Orange County Register) calls it riveting, but is concerned that a child who dislikes his or her stepfather or stepmother might get bad ideas about "how to make life miserable for that stepparent."

John Adair (Preview) remarks, "The strong language makes [the film] even more disturbing."

The USCC's critic is the most lenient: "Though the run-of-the-mill narrative has its flaws, director Harold Becker's campy film keeps the action moving by relying on the endangered-child angle and a chilling music score."