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DVD Review: The Box Is Empty (2009)

The Box is a confusing mess of pointless items that eventually waters down the original story and answers no questions.

Imagine you receive a mysterious box covered in expensive velvet. You take the box inside and open it to find a cowbell, a stuffed beaver, two pieces of ribbon and a slide whistle. The note says all will be explained and you wait in anticipation. Watching The Box is kind of like this.

Based on an 1986 episode of The Twilight Zone called "Button, Button", The Box stars James Marsden and Cameron Diaz as a Southern couple living an everyday middle-class existence in 1976. She's a teacher with a twisted foot and he works for as an engineer at NASA. You know. Your average working class family. One day a mysterious man (Frank Langella), with part of his face missing, leaves a box and instructions that if they push the button two things will happen: They will get one million dollars in cash and someone they don't know will die. He leaves them 24 hours to make their decision.

The consequences of their decision make up the bulk of the movie. At first glance, director Richard Kelly sets up a wide array of interesting items for our review. He said that when they decided to expand the original short story into a feature-length movie they decided to explore the origins of the box and the reason for it. By the end of the film, the couple are faced with another moral decision implying that the first one wasn't enough.

Let's go back to the box that you received at the beginning of this review. Imagine as you take all the items out you wait in eager anticipation offinding out what all these things mean. A man comes, takes the ribbon and says that this is a bookmark. He walks away and leaves you explaining nothing else.  Pretty unsatisfying right?

By the end of the movie, only 1% of the basic questions are answered and none of the other questions are answered at all. Its implies that the box comes from aliens that are testing humanity, but why are they only testing people that work at NASA? Why did the lightning burn the guy's face but nothing else. Why is the purpose of having the wife with a twisted foot? What is the average air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

The Twilight Zone episode had a number of advantages over the big budget movie. They had a built in answer for the question of why things happened. They were in another dimension. The characters were set up as extremely poor living in an apartment. They were also set up as slightly morally bankrupt. In the movie they push they button because they don't believe it does anything.

So, in the end, the movie falls way short of its potential. The Box is pointless and empty.

Two out of five stars.

Would you watch The Box?


  1. The review box for DVD is empty. You can read all about it here
    DVD distribution

  2. The review box for DVD is empty. You can read all about it here


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