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Movies You Missed 11: Trespass

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This week in movies you missed: What if they made a movie with Nicole Kidman and Nicolas Cage and nobody came?

What You Missed

You may know the name of director Joel Schumacher. Back in the '80s, he made The Lost Boys, St. Elmo's Fire, Flatliners and other glittery distractions that receive more nostalgic love than they deserve. Then came Batman & Robin, and since then Schumacher's resume hasn't been so impressive.

His latest is this home-invasion thriller with two stars who can still (occasionally) pack people into theaters. Cage plays a diamond merchant, Kidman is his trophy wife, and Liana Liberato is their teenage daughter. When a quartet of masked criminals invades their swanky home and takes them hostage, the family's questionable bonds are stretched to the breaking point.

Why You Missed It

According to Box Office Mojo, Trespass occupied a total of 10 theaters for one week last month. Then it went unceremoniously straight to DVD.

Should You Keep Missing It?

Here's Trespass in a nutshell: Running. Struggling. Hitting. Screaming. Crying. Smashing. Threatening. Pleading. Overacting. Rinse and repeat (especially the overacting).

When executed with low-key realism, home-invasion thrillers can be among the most disturbing of movies, as anyone who's seen either version of Funny Games knows. But there's no realism here. Schumacher takes his usual approach, which is to make the situation into a glossy, high-speed, low-stakes music video. There's no real dramatic arc, either, just a lot of stuff happening.

So I spent the movie thinking about the difference between fictional characters who are unlikable in a good way (McNulty on "The Wire," Walter and Skyler White on "Breaking Bad," Britta on "Community") and those who are unlikable in a bad way (everyone in Trespass). For me it comes down to nuance. Real people and good characters are flawed in complex ways, with likable aspects. You'd like McNulty for a drinking partner, just not for a husband. But you wouldn't want anything to do with these characters.

For whatever reason, scriptwriter Karl Gajdusek chose to introduce our heroes as deeply unpleasant people. First we follow Cage's character as he zips up to his multimillion-dollar home in a sports car, obnoxiously hustling clients on the phone the whole way. Inside the house, Kidman flits around in Stepford Wife mode preparing the perfect dinner for her family, but no sooner is it on the table than Cage rushes back to work, and the surly teen escapes to a forbidden party.

So, basically, we have two selfish ingrates and a whiny door mat. While each family member eventually redeems him- or herself -- so the script tells us, anyway -- they don't develop any shadings that might make us care.

The home invaders turn out to have their own family issues: Ben Mendelsohn and Jordana Spiro are a dysfunctional couple (she's a druggie stripper), and his younger brother (Cam Gigandet, best known as a Twilight hunk) is a psychotic who's obsessed with Kidman and off his meds.

At one point, I thought maybe the wealthy family (which isn't as financially secure as it initially appears) and the 99 percenter family would band together in a rousing anarchist conclusion. But no. This is yet another film about well-off people rediscovering the importance of the nuclear family by fighting off dirty thugs.

But, since the writer and director haven't even taken rudimentary steps to make us care about this nuclear family, and since Cage is doing his usual crazy-eyed thing and looking increasingly like a demented Pierce Hawthorne, Trespass has a hollow core. For once, the box office is also a solid indicator of quality.

Verdict: If you're a crazy-Cage completist, you'll probably need to see this. It's not as dull as Bangkok Dangerous, but it's no Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. You could just wait for that new Ghost Rider movie where apparently he pees fire.

More New DVDs You May Have Missed:

  • Bunraku (Josh Hartnett in some kind of manga action thing)
  • An Invisible Sign (Jessica Alba plays a weird, geeky math teacher. You heard me.)
  • The Last Mountain
  • Magic Trip (doc about life on the road with the Merry Pranksters)
  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (novel adaptation about female friendship from Wayne Wang)
  • Tabloid (Documentarian Errol Morris investigates the "case of the manacled Mormon.")

Each week I review a brand-new DVD release picked for me by Seth Jarvis, buyer for Burlington's Waterfront Video, where you can obtain these fine films. (In central Vermont, try Downstairs Video.)

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