"Disturbia" is a highly caffeinated variation on "Rear Window." The premise is the same, but the telling rejects Alfred Hitchcock's classic pacing for the supercharged plotting of a modern-day teenage thriller.
When hothead Kale (Shia LaBeouf) is sentenced to home arrest for attacking one of his teachers, he passes the time by spying on his neighbors. They all have their little peculiarities, but the behavior of one of them is particularly odd. When Kale realizes that the neighbor drives a car similar to one that has been connected to a serial killer, he becomes convinced that the mysterious neighbor is a murderer.
Kale is wearing an electronic ankle bracelet that confines him to the house. In order to investigate his suspicions, he recruits Ashley (Sarah Roemer, "The Grudge 2") and Ronnie (Aaron Yoo, TV's "The Bedford Diaries"). Their mission is to find out as much as they can about the neighbor (David Morse at his menacing best).
The leg sporting the ankle bracelet is a nice nod to the broken leg that kept Jimmy Stewart homebound in "Rear Window." LeBeouf ("Holes") is no Stewart, but he does exude the same low-key affability and inquisitive imagination.
The other actors have some big shoes to fill, too. Roemer is stepping in for Grace Kelly, and Morse is replacing Raymond Burr (who, in his pre-Perry Mason days, played a dandy heavy). Carrie-Ann Moss (the "Matrix" trilogy) plays Kale's mother, who tends to him the same way nurse Thelma Ritter tended to Stewart.
The acting throughout is solid, and that's more than sufficient in this context. It was co-written by the writer of "Red Eye" (Carl Elsworth) and directed by the man who made the junkie film noir thriller "The Salton Sea" (D.J. Caruso). It dodges around plot holes by using a nonstop barrage of action and sudden changes in tone: One minute it's a horror movie, the next it's a teen romance. Oh, wait a second, now it's a comedy.
Even for the teenage target viewers who might not be familiar with "Rear Window," there isn't much in the way of surprise plot twists. But the predictability is offset by the movie's energy.
*** out of four stars.
Rated PG-13 for terror, violence and suggestions of sensuality.