If they poked pointed sticks at children who stuttered, “The Box” wouldn’t be more offensive.
If they mocked cancer patients, “The Box” couldn’t be more offensive.
Honestly, I’ve not seen a movie more antithetical to my worldview than “The Box.” And it’s not even well done.
I didn’t really want to see it but I don’t get out much without the kids and this was the only thing playing at the time so I got myself some popcorn and a bucket of Diet Coke and sat myself down for a moral conundrum movie.
OK. We all know the premise. Strange creepy looking guy with half a face gives Cameron Diaz and the guy from X-Men a box with a button inside. He tells them that if they push the button two things will happen. One, they get a million bucks. Two, someone they don’t know dies.
The movie for some reason is set in 1976. Why that is, I can’t fathom except so it could be set in the days when a million bucks really meant something.
Now I’m down with moral conundrum movies. But I had no great interest in seeing “The Box” mainly because I think Cameron Diaz is essentially a giggly mobile mannequin. But there aren’t a lot of giggles in this movie. And I’m cool with that. Like I said, I dig moral conundrum movies. But they have to be real moral conundrums.
Unfortunately, this supposedly regular couple is given a million bucks for a death of someone they don’t know and their moral quibbling boils down to “hey, people die all the time so no major biggie if someone dies because of this button or from an earthquake.” Well it seems they forgot the whole conundrum thing. Diaz just pouted at the box for a few scenes and pushes it without much buildup.
They make it clear that she did it so that her son could have all the advantages that a million bucks can bring a young person. (Just ask Lindsey Lohan how that’s working out for her) We soon find out that someone did actually die and that the woman who died was, in fact, the woman who had pushed the button before Diaz.
Strange thing. We see three couples push the button in the movie and all three times it was the wife who pushed the button. Kind of an Adam and Eve thing, I guess. Actually, there’s all sorts of Christian imagery in the movie from manger scenes in the background to crosses on walls. And it would actually work well in a movie which actually had a cohesive moral point but this movie cleverly managed to avoid anything like a point. Just as they forgot the whole conundrum part, they also forgot the moral.
BIG SPOILERS BELOW!!!!
It turns out that the creepy guy with The Box is an alien and he works with a whole lot of aliens and they’re giving the boxes out as a test on humanity’s altruism – which it seems that humanity is failing pretty dismally, mind you.
So the couple does all sorts of investigating which means that they walk around sneakily and the bad guys essentially find them and lay out their entire plan to them for no apparent reason. And I’m like “C’mon Shaggy and Scoob have to work harder for clues than these people.” But I had my popcorn and a now half filled bucket of Diet Coke so I was still reasonably happy. I really was.
And then the creepy guy with half a face comes back and gives Cameron Diaz and the dude from X-Men a new ultimatum. He tells them their son is locked in the upstairs bathroom but he is now blind and deaf and will remain so unless the dude from X-Men kills his wife. So here’s the upshot: They can either live on with their million dollars and their disabled son, or the dude from X-Men can shoot his wife through the heart at which point the son’s sight and hearing will be restored and the million will be placed in a bank account for the boy.
Now normally I’d say a movie where Cameron Diaz dies in the end is a winner but in this case her murder by her husband is presented as a noble end which is depicted as elevating humanity because he kills her to give his child’s senses back and some mad cash, of course. So the father killing the mother is a happy ending? Is that really the message?
The son’s got some disabilities so the Dad kills the Mom to restore him? Seriously. A man murdering his wife is the happy ending? Really? And I could tell that this was supposed to be the inspiring ending because the music told me so.
Oh wait, I forgot this part. Cameron Diaz tells her husband that it’s OK is he kills her because the creepy guy smiled when she asked if there was an afterlife. I’m serious. That’s really what she said. She pretty much says “Sayonara, see you in a few years when you go to your afterlife” and dies peacefully from a massive smoking hole in the middle of her chest.
And then the dude from X-Men gets taken away by the aliens after receiving approving looks from top secret government guys standing on his lawn.
And then we cut to the alien creepy guy strolling slowly by a manger scene and he tips his hat.
And I’m like “What?!” I honestly felt like stopping the three other people in the theater on the way out to ask if they understood something I didn’t. I didn’t. I just shook the popcorn off my shirt and loudly slurped my empty bucket of Diet Coke.
I’m still trying to work it out. The movie tut-tuts people causing the death of a stranger for the good of their child but then weirdly ends with praising the killing of the child’s mother for the good of the child. I’m not sure I saw a real distinction there but the movie makers clearly did.
And all I could think was that maybe this movie was an unintentionally telling benchmark on our national psyche. Are we so far gone as a society with abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and euthanasia and an overall lack of morals that we can’t even have decent moral conundrum movies. You see, for a moral conundrum movie to work you first need morals.